Stimulation (AU,M/M,Mature) [Complete]

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April
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Stimulation (AU,M/M,Mature) [Complete]

Post by April » Mon Nov 01, 2004 7:26 am

Title: Stimulation

Author: April

Disclaimer: Nothing has ever been mine before, so why break tradition?

Summary: A story of overwhelming happiness, immense pain, and uncontrollable passion . . . a story of what happens when two people bring each other to life.

Category: Michael and Maria AU

Rating: Mature (sometimes heavy Mature)

Author’s Note: I must say that I am very happy with the way this turned out. I had so much fun writing it, so I hope some people out there enjoy it. I would love feedback! Thanks! Enjoy!


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Roswell, New Mexico, 1999

The principal’s office was stuffy. Michael Guerin was suffocating. As if the lack of air weren’t bad enough, there were also the thoughts of his punishment plaguing away at him, too. Would he get suspended for a week? Expelled for the rest of the year?

He looked at the closed door in front of him, knowing that principal Morris was on the other side of that door, talking to someone else, probably expelling him like he did with everyone who came into his office.

It just kept getting stuffier.

As Michael sat there, he thought back to everything that had happened. It had been simple enough. He had been standing at the drinking fountain, just about to get a drink, when Adam Sieffero had come running forward, pushing him aside and unknowingly knocking his books to the ground. Adam had taken a drink for himself, not caring that there was someone else who had been ready to take a drink as well.

Something had snapped. Michael had forgotten about his books and had put all of his attention on Adam, focusing on pounding his fist into the other boy’s face, focusing on making his nose bleed and making him cry so hard that he would hear about it a month into the future.

He had hurt him. He had kept hurting him until two teachers had rushed out of the building and had pulled him away and into the office.

Now he was here, and he was suffocating.

All at once, the door opened to principal Morris’s office and a boy around Michael’s age stepped out, crying. Michael recoiled in the chair, afraid of the evident expulsion in his future.

Principal Morris stepped out afterward and looked around the room as if expecting to see someone else other than Michael. At last, his eyes settled on the recoiling boy and he said in a voice of question, “Michael?”

He stood up slowly, trying his hardest to be brave. He had to do this. There was no backing out now, even if it meant expulsion. Besides, he didn’t exactly have a choice.

He sat down in the chair in front of principal Morris’s desk, listening as the final bell rang and students flooded the halls, laughing and talking and feeling much better than Michael was. He wished he was one of them.

“Michael Guerin,” principal Morris started, “you know, I don’t usually see you in here.”

“I’ve never been in here.”

Principal Morris sighed. “Then what happened? Why are you in here now?”

Michael didn’t want to answer. “I . . .” He trailed off and hung his head, unable to look principal Morris in the eyes as he spoke. “I hit Adam.”

“Why did you hit him?”

“Because he deserved it. I was gonna get a drink, and he just came right up to me and pushed me away so he could get a drink for himself. I was there first.”

“Michael, I realize that isn’t fair, but it was no reason to hit him.”

“But it happens all the time,” Michael continued. “Every day people cut me in line or run into me in the hallway, and they don’t even care.”

“Michael . . .”

“He deserved it.”

Principal Morris sighed again. “Michael, you are a very bright student. You’re only in eighth grade, and I already see scholarly talents in you. I would hate to see that all wasted on . . . on revenge. You’re going somewhere in life, and I want to see you get there.”

He nodded mutely, understanding.

“You have something they don’t have,” principal Morris went on. “You have an overwhelming desire to succeed, and no matter what people say, that’s a good thing. Don’t ever lose that desire, Michael. Don’t ever get side-tracked and lose your priorities.”

He nodded again.

“Now, since this is a first time deal, and since I do, believe it or not, understand your reasons, I’m going to be a little more lenient than I should be.”

“You’re not gonna expel me?”

Principal Morris chuckled and shook his head. “No, I’m not. I’m going to have to suspend you for two days, though.”

Michael breathed a sigh of relief and watched as the principal filled out a paper detailing the reasons behind his two-day suspension.

“I hope I never see you in here again,” principal Morris said, handing Michael a letter to give to his father.

“You won’t,” he assured him, standing up. “I promise, you won’t.” He said good-bye to principal Morris and left the room, suddenly feeling like he could breathe again.

He walked outside just as the buses were leaving, searching for his books. He found them right where he had left them. It was typical that no one had bothered to pick them up.

Some of his assignments were blowing around the school yard. He ran around to collect them before they all blew away and then gathered all of his items together. He checked his planner as he began to leave, mentally reminding himself that he had algebra and geography to do before he watched any TV at home.

As he was walking, he bumped into two people in front of him. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, not looking up from his planner. (He usually avoided eye contact with people when possible.) He tried to keep walking, but one of the people in front of him stuck his arm out and stopped him.

Michael looked up slowly, directly into the face of Josh Jones. He was huge, a monster. Next to him was Tess Harding, who was tiny in comparison to Josh. They were a year older than Michael, both freshman at Roswell High. They were notorious for the things they had done, always getting into trouble one way or another.

What are they going to do to me? Michael thought. Are they going to hit me like I hit Adam?

“What’s this, honey?” Tess asked him, pushing his books out of his arms and to the ground. “Please don’t tell me you’re actually studying. Nobody does that anymore.”

Michael watched as his assignments fell out of the pages and floated away in the wind. “My assignments--” he started.

“Who cares?” Josh said. “It’s numbers and letters and paper. It’s not that important.”

Michael wanted to explain to him how important it was, but he didn’t dare.

“You know what else isn’t important?” Josh continued. “This.” He took the note from principal Morris meant for Michael’s father out of Michael’s hand and tore it down the middle.

“I was supposed to give that to my father.”

“Do you always do what you’re supposed to do?” Tess asked him. “You really are a loser.” She laughed a little and added, “But not a complete loser.”

“I have to get home.” Michael tried to move past them, but he didn’t succeed.

“Hey, look man, we saw you today,” Josh said, placing his hands on his shoulders to stop him. “We saw the way you hit that lame-ass prep over by the drinking fountain. I’ll hand it to you, that was some fine work.”

“It was a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Tess echoed. “Lemme ask you something. Has a mistake ever felt that good before?”

Michael remained silent, not wanting to let anyone know how good it had felt. No matter what principal Morris or anyone else said, revenge was sweet. After years of taking the punches, it felt good to give a few of his own.

“I know it felt good,” Tess said. “It always feels good to have power.”

“I . . . I’m late for dinner,” he stammered.

“Dinner? It’s only 3:30,” Tess pointed out.

Josh laughed a little. “You’re gonna have to do better than that,” he said. “Look, we’re not gonna leave you alone, so you might as well hear us out, alright?”

Michael nodded slowly.

“You’re a loser,” Josh continued, “a nerd. Whatever you wanna call it, that’s what you are. But you might not be for long.”

“What do you mean?” Michael was surprised to find himself actually intrigued by this possibility. Not being a loser, not having to deal with everything he had had to deal with in his life would be great.

“I mean you could stop caring about school and homework and all those little assignments that just floated away from you. You could stop studying and go partying instead. You could stop following the rules and start breaking ‘em. You could be like us.”

“Like you?”

“Like me,” he confirmed. “See, Tess and I are doing something we rarely do. We’re inviting you in with us. You would have to be stupid not to accept.”

“And you’re not stupid,” Tess said, glancing down at the straight-A papers in his hands. “I’m pretty sure of that.”

“It’s free,” Josh continued. “It’s fun and it’s free and it’s living. No rules, man. No boundaries. What do you say?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Roswell, New Mexico, 2004

He trailed his hand up her bare leg and under her criminally short skirt, causing a groan to escape from her.

“That feels good,” she said. “Michael, that feels so good.” Tess’s eyes clouded over with darkness as she gazed at him, sitting down upon his now enthusiastic self and beginning to move slowly.

Michael leaned back in the chair, letting his arms fall to his sides as she tore open the front of his shirt before leaning down to take his nipple into her mouth.

As much as he enjoyed this, it did not stop him from becoming distracted. His eyes found the clock and he noted the time. Tess was late for work. Whenever she was late, her boss would take her into his office and punish her in a way that Tess actually enjoyed.

“You’re late for work,” he told her, taking her head in his hands and pulling her away.

She let out a sigh, depressed. “I don’t wanna go.”

“You have to.” The statement was the complete truth and the essence of everything that could be called a fact. Tess had been working at a strip club just outside of Roswell ever since she had gotten out of high school. She was beautiful and had a great body, so it did not surprise anyone that guys literally threw money at her when she was on stage.

Michael knew her body. He knew it better than any of the guys at those clubs ever would, better than her boss ever would, but he would never crave it the way they all did. Tess was his best friend, and they screwed around together a lot, but he did not feel a particular way about her, and he was pretty certain that the feeling was mutual.

Hesitantly, she stood up and smoothed her skirt down over her legs, exiting the room the way she had come in, only stopping to check her hair in the mirror. Michael took one look at his shirt when she was gone and came to the conclusion that it was never to be worn again. Nothing could fix a tear like that.

Tess would buy him a new one.

Michael smelled smoke coming from downstairs, so he eagerly found another shirt and made his way down. Josh was sitting on the couch lighting up and watching a porno on TV. Michael sat down beside him and watched as a girl was spanked in her boss’s office just as Tess would be in a short time for showing up late. He held out his hand and Josh passed him a cigarette and his lighter, and Michael started to make himself comfortable.

“What’re you still doin’ here, Michael?” Josh asked him, keeping his eyes locked on the TV screen. “Isn’t it a school night?”

“Aw, fuck you, man,” Michael joked. Josh was right. He did have school in the morning, but he didn’t care. While some kids were home resting up for the big exam, Michael was engaging in some very frowned upon activities.

“I don’t know why you’re still goin’ to school,” Josh commented. “They can’t exactly force you to stay in.”

That much was true. Michael was nineteen. Legally, he didn’t have to go to school anymore, but he was a senior now, due to the fact that he had failed the ninth grade, so . . .

“What the hell, right?” he said with a shrug. “I might as well finish it off.”

Josh laughed a little and shook his head. “Remember how you were thinking about college a few years back? You were so messed up.”

“I know,” Michael agreed. A brief image flashed across his mind, an image of what he had looked like and how he had acted, and he let it disappear. “I know.”

“Things are different now,” Josh continued. “They’re better.”

“Yeah,” Michael agreed with a nod. “A hell of a lot better.”

“And when you finally graduate, they’re gonna be even better,” Josh said.

“I should be outta there already,” Michael said. “If I wouldn’t have been so stoned my freshman year . . .”

Josh stood up. “Seven months, man, and then you and Tess and I are gonna tear it up around here more than we already do.”

“Sounds good.” Michael stretched out on the couch once Josh was gone, thinking about a number of things. In the past, no one had bothered to bring up Michael’s previous days, but with graduation getting closer every day, looming only a few months away, people were talking more and more, especially Tess and Josh. They thought it was funny, witnessing Michael’s transformation, and to an extent, it was, but to another extent, it wasn’t.

Michael’s middle school principal had once said that he saw scholarly talents in Michael.

He had been wrong.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Something was blocking the door to the trailer, keeping Michael from entering when he returned home that night. He pushed on the door somewhat, and it gradually opened. There was a mountain of trash on the other side. Typical.

Hank Guerin, Michael’s father, was sitting in the beat-up recliner with a beer bottle in his hand, struggling to concentrate on the hockey game and not fall asleep. When his son came inside, he turned his head slowly and squinted at him, as if unsure who he was. “Where you been all weekend?” he asked him in a drunken voice.

“Do you care?” Michael asked back, kicking some of the trash aside with his feet.

Hank turned back around so that he was facing the television. “No,” he said quietly.

Michael ignored the reply and made his way down the tiny hallway to his room, tripping over another empty beer bottle on his way. He slammed his door and threw his jacket down on the floor, collapsing on top of his bed. The trailer reeked of beer. It had for as long as Michael could remember. His father had always been this way.

He started thinking again, and he wished that he hadn’t. Once he started, it was hard to stop, and thinking was the kind of thing that could get a guy in trouble, make him question things. He started thinking about what he had. He had a lot. He had his friends. He had . . . well, he didn’t really have anything else, but it was more than he had had when he was in the eighth grade.

So this was really all there was. It was never going to get any better than this.

“What’re you doing?”

Michael turned in surprise and found Tess peeking in through his open window. “Not much,” he said, getting up and opening the window more so that she could come inside. “What exactly are you doing? Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Yeah,” she said, “but I kinda got fired.”

“WHAT?” he shrieked. “You got fired?”

She nodded simply like it was nothing. “It’s crazy, huh? How could they fire me and my body?”

Michael couldn’t believe this. This was not good. Tess was the income, she was the cash. “We needed that job,” he told her.

“We?” she echoed in question. “I don’t think I recall seeing you wrapped around that pole every night.”

He sighed. “You know what I mean. Josh is gonna be pissed when you tell him you can’t buy his cigarettes anymore.”

Tess gave him a confused look. “I’ll get another job,” she said. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It is a big deal,” Michael said. “It is.”

Tess’s confusion grew. “What’s your problem, Michael?” she asked him. “You’re acting stressed or something.”

“What do I have to be stressed about?” He sat back down on his bed, ignoring Tess’s questioning gaze.

“Something’s up with you,” she said. “Maybe you’re not stressed, but something’s weird.”

“How so?”

“Well, for starters,” Tess said, “I’ve been in your room for at least a minute now, and I’ve still got all my clothes on.”

Michael looked up slowly to see Tess taking off her shirt, nothing underneath. “If you won’t undress me,” she said, sitting down on his lap, “then I’ll undress myself.” She took his hand in hers and placed it on her breast, urging him to excite her as she pressed her body down on his and worked with getting his shirt off again. She didn’t tear it off this time, but it was gone just as fast, along with the rest of his clothes.

She laid down on the bed and he brought her skirt down over her hips. Soon enough, the smell of their sex began to permeate the room.

“I don’t know what’s going on with you, Michael,” she said through gasps as they moved together, “but you better not ever get side-tracked and lose your priorities.”

Michael stopped moving slightly. The sentence brought up a memory, a memory of that fateful day when he had hit that damn Adam kid by the drinking fountain and received those words from the principal, and later the invitation from Tess and Josh.

“Come on, Michael. Fuck me.”

He snapped back into reality and looked at the disappointed and confused girl beneath him, unsure of whether to continue or not.

He pulled out of her to her shock and laid back on the bed, reaching up to turn off the light before she had time to ask questions.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael felt Tess slip out of bed the next morning. He pretended to be asleep as she gathered her clothes and crawled out the window. When he was sure she was gone, he got out of bed and got dressed himself, knowing quite well that he was going to be hearing about the lack of sex that had taken place between them from Tess that coming night.

He made his way out into the tiny kitchen, surprised to find that his father was awake. Usually he was passed out in his chair. Today, he was eating breakfast . . . and drinking some more beer.

Michael opened the refrigerator and peered inside. It was virtually empty. There was a jar of mustard and a few slices of cheese and an expired carton of milk along with a few more beer bottles, but nothing more.

“I need you to go to the store today,” Hank said in a slurred voice. “Get some food and get me some more beer.”

“Get your own beer.”

“No,” Hank protested. “You go. You go and get it for me.”

Michael sighed, exasperated. He reached into the refrigerator and grabbed one of the last remaining bottles. He turned and threw it at the wall, barely missing his father’s head. “There’s your beer, dad!” he shouted angrily. “There’s your fuckin’ beer!” He slammed the refrigerator and made his way to the door.

“You’re useless,” Hank grumbled before he could leave.

“Take a look in the mirror.”

He arrived at school fifteen minutes late, and when he walked into the building, the principal stopped him. This guy was different than principal Morris was. He hated Michael and was looking forward to graduation day with every part of his being.

“Mr. Guerin, what time does school start?”

Michael sighed, exasperated. “I don’t know,” he said honestly.

“You used to.”

Michael felt his hands clenching into fist, and he had every desire in the world to punch this guy in the face. “I don’t need a reminder, okay?” he shouted. “Just . . .” He was trying hard to think of something damaging to say, something that might possibly get him in trouble just for the hell of it, but he couldn’t. “Just leave me alone.” He pushed past the principal and made his way to his first class.

“Nice of you to show up,” his teacher said when he walked inside and sat down at a desk in the back of the room.

His teacher droned on and on, and he felt himself starting to think again. He thought about eighth grade and everything before it. He had not been happy then, but he wasn’t exactly happy now, either.

But apparently this was a good as it got. There was nothing else. He had told himself that dozens of times now, but he still didn’t want to believe it.

An assignment was passed back and fell on top of Michael’s desk. He took one look at it and knew nothing of what it was talking about.

You used to, a little voice in his head was saying. You used to do assignments and get a 100% grade on all of them.

None of the questions made sense. It was practically like a foreign language to him. He stared at the paper for a long time, but he still didn’t know what to write down.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up and pushed his entire desk to the ground as his anger took him over. Everyone turned back and gave him strange looks, and his teacher started yelling at him to come back when he left the room.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he heard the principal ask him. He ignored everyone who tried to stop him and left the school the way he had come in. He couldn’t take much more of this. All of these reminders, all of this talk about his life . . . it was making him think about things too much.






TBC . . .

Okay, so I know it starts off a little strangely, but I promise that things will be picking up in the next parts. I hope someone is interested! :D
Last edited by April on Sun Jan 09, 2005 3:55 pm, edited 55 times in total.
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April
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Post by April » Tue Nov 02, 2004 6:00 pm

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Upon entering into the bad part of town where he knew he would find Tess and Josh, Michael passed a man sitting on a bench and drinking a bottle of beer. For a second, he thought it was his father, but he soon realized it was just another stupid drunk. It was nearly impossible to tell any of them apart.

The door to Tess’s and Josh’s place was unlocked, as it almost always was, so Michael let himself in. Smoke entered his lungs when he stepped inside, and he saw half a pack of cigarettes lying on the counter. He resisted the urge to light up real quick. Cigarettes always seemed to work for him in times of stress. Except he had not really been stressed for quite some time now. But with all of this talk lately about graduation and about what he had been like at one time, he was beginning to remember what stress was all about.

He heard Tess and Josh talking upstairs, so he went up to join them. When he opened the door to Tess’s room, he saw her standing in front of the mirror in a barely there Playboy Bunny costume. When she saw him enter the door, she smiled. “I look hot, don’t I?” she said, not at all bothering to hide her satisfaction. “I bet you want me now.”

“Why the hell are you wearing that?”

“Halloween, of course,” she replied. “Don’t I just have the best costume?”

When Michael didn’t say anything, Josh stepped closer to Tess, smacking her ass. “I’d say so,” he said. “Fuckin’ brilliant.”

Tess craned her neck to meet Michael’s eyes. “He wants me,” she said with a smile.

“Forget about it, Tess,” Michael told her. He sat down in the broken recliner chair and didn’t bother to expand anymore on the misadventures of the night before.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in school right now or something?” Josh asked him, trailing one hand up Tess’s exposed thigh before letting go of her completely and falling back onto the bed.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Well, Michael,” Tess said, laying down next to Josh, “people who go to school tend to actually be there.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t wanna be there.”

“Don’t you wanna graduate or whatever?”

“I guess,” he answered, unaware of what reply he should give. One part of him didn’t care if he graduated or not. The other part still wanted to, just to have at least one accomplishment.

“Teachers got you pissed?” Josh asked him. “Always had me pissed.”

Michael shrugged. “I dunno. Something like that. It just seems like everyone’s always talking about me. Talking about how I’m so different now.”

“You are different,” Tess said. “It’s common knowledge, Michael, but trust me, not everyone’s talking about you.”

“Seems like they are.”

“They’re not,” Josh reassured him. “Who fuckin’ cares if they are? It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” As much as he wanted to believe that it wasn’t a big deal, he couldn’t. Every day, it just kept getting bigger, and every day it just kept getting bigger at a faster rate.

“School’s a load of crap, Michael,” Tess reminded him, seductively running her finger down her barely clad body as she did so, trying to tempt him. “It’s no reason to be miserable.”

“I’m not miserable,” he lied.

“Well, you’re stressed or something,” she said, “and you gotta do something about it, ‘cause I can’t take much more of this.”

You can’t take much more of this? his mind screamed in disbelief. How do you think I feel?

“We could do something about it,” Josh said quietly, as if thinking. “School’s messin’ you up, right?”

An image of his drunken father passed out on the couch at night passed through Michael’s mind briefly. “Pretty much,” he said.

“So,” Josh said, “I say we mess up the school.”

Tess clapped her hands together in excitement. “Ooh, I like this!” she exclaimed.

“We should do it,” Josh said. “Tonight, we should go screw with that school.”

“Well, I’m in!” Tess said immediately. “Sounds fun!” Both she and Josh looked to Michael, waiting for his answer.

“Yeah,” he agreed finally, feeling as if he had no other choice, no way to make his own decision. “I’m in, too.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When they met that night about a block away from the school, Tess was still dressed in her Playboy Bunny Halloween costume. A few kids gave her weird looks as they passed her on their journey to the next available house.

“That’s hardly appropriate for school,” Josh joked.

“Are you kidding? It’s way appropriate,” she replied. She began to dance around on the sidewalk as a car passed, blaring loud music. Michael could tell just by looking at her that she was completely stoned.

“She’s pretty far gone,” Josh said, letting his eyes linger on Tess as she moved. His desire wasn’t hidden in the slightest. At last he tore his eyes away from her and focused on Michael. “Let’s go,” he said, motioning with his head toward the school building in the distance.

As they approached the school, Michael started to slow as his doubts arose. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to do this on Halloween. The cops are everywhere.”

“I don’t give a damn about the cops,” Josh said. “Besides, if they show up, I’m ready.”

“What do you mean?” Michael asked.

With a grin on his face, Josh opened up his black leather coat, allowing both Michael and Tess to see that he was carrying a brand new, gleaming, sparkling gun. “Just a precaution,” he said.

Precaution wasn’t just a word to Josh. It was a lie. The last time he had brought a gun along somewhere as a “precaution”, he had ended up firing it and killing the guy who was in the line of fire. Lucky for him, he hadn’t been caught.

Ignoring the sense of dread that had begun to well up inside of him, Michael Guerin followed his two friends into the school, once again feeling as if he had no choice.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

About a dozen rolls of toilet paper and cans of spray paint later, the school was an entire disaster. Tess had spray-painted a row of lockers to say “Bunny” in reference to her Halloween costume, and Josh had painted his own version of a marijuana leaf on the south wall of the gym.

“This is art!” he exclaimed, stepping back to admire his work. “Dude, this whole place is like one huge fuckin’ work of art!”

Tess began to laugh and shout, running up and jumping into Josh’s arms. “It’s so pretty!” she shouted. “It’s so pretty!”

“You’re so pretty,” Josh said. “I just wanna . . .” He trailed off and let his hand slide around to grab her ass roughly. “I just wanna do you right now.”

Tess giggled. “Stop it,” she scolded. “You’re making Michael jealous.”

“I’m not jealous.”

She gave him a look. “Oh, you’re not? Do you mean to tell me that you’re not jealous when I do this?” She thrust her hips in toward Josh’s, rubbing her body up against his painstakingly slowly.

“No,” he answered honestly, reaching down to pick up the last remaining roll of toilet paper. “Have at it. I don’t care.” He threw the toilet paper up as far as he could, watching as it fell down over one of the rafters hanging from the ceiling.

“Look at that,” Tess said, pointing to the stream of toilet paper that Michael had just thrown as she rocked back and forth in Josh’s arms. “It’s so pretty! It’s just glorious!”

“Fuckin’ glorious!” Josh agreed. “Glorious!”

Michael sighed in exasperation. Tess obviously wasn’t the only one here who was stoned. “Could you guys keep it down?” he said. “You know there are actual people out there who could . . .” He trailed off when he heard a distinct sound coming from the distance.

“Great.” Without waiting for Tess and Josh, he took off across the gym, heading for the back exit.

“Sirens?” Tess asked, jumping down from Josh’s arms. “Are those sirens?”

“Fuck!” Throwing open the back door, Michael took off through the empty parking lot. His footsteps echoed on the concrete, as did the footsteps of Josh and Tess. Soon, he thought that he could hear the footsteps of the police running through the vandalized gymnasium, chasing after them.

There was a forest area not far ahead of him. There were lots of trees, plenty of places to hide. If he could make it that far, he might just get out of this.

As he ran in the direction of the forest, he thought he heard Tess saying, “Don’t go that way, Michael,” but he couldn’t be sure. He saw Josh and her running in a different direction, in the direction of a crowd of people. He silently cursed himself when he realized he wasn’t following them. He had followed them for the last years of his life, and he wasn’t now. They were going to blend in with everyone else, just be a part of the crowd, and that was actually a good idea.

He heard the sound of dogs barking as he tumbled down the side of a fairly steep ravine. He got to his feet and kept running, wishing now more than ever that he had taken that job at the grocery store so that he could buy himself a car, and wishing that he had not have left all of those empty spray-paint cans laying around in the trashed gymnasium. They were the perfect evidence. Fingerprints. No matter how far he ran, they would still find him, and they would still have evidence. No matter how much Tess and Josh tried to blend in with the Halloween crowd, they would still be found, too, and there would still be evidence to convict them, too. No matter how well they blended and no matter how fast Michael ran, they would still be found out.

But he continued to run, regardless, until the beam of a bright flashlight shined down on him from above, stopping him in his tracks.

“Freeze!” a police officer shouted. “Freeze and put your hands up in the air!”

Slowly, he raised his hands up in the air so that they could see that he didn’t have any weapons.

“Put your hands on your head and get down on the ground now!”

Michael did as he was instructed, putting his hands on his head and laying down on the cold, damp ground. Seconds later, he felt handcuffs around his wrists, and he heard a familiar speech.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . .”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They took his fingerprints. They looked the same as they had when he had last been to jail. After that, they told him to change into an orange jumpsuit so that they could examine his clothes for evidence. (As if they needed any more evidence.) Soon after he was changed, they sat him down to talk with an inspector in a secluded, virtually empty room.

The inspector had a huge mass of blonde hair sitting on top of her head, and she wore leopard-framed glasses. Michael recognized her immediately. Her name was Sheila or something along those lines. She was the same woman who had spoken with him the first time he had been to jail. He was sure of it. There was no way he could forget an appearance like that.

“Michael Guerin,” she started. “I remember you. I talked to you when you were younger. How old were you then?” When he didn’t answer, she flipped through his record quickly and found her answer. “Fifteen. Just a Freshman in high school. Got caught with drugs in your locker. So young. Now you’ve grown, and you’re back here again.” She shrugged and shook her head, a look of disappointment finding her facial features. “I don’t know what to say.”

Michael sighed. “Well, I know what you’re gonna say. I’ve heard it all before. You’re gonna tell me that I’m not on the path of righteousness, that I’m not getting anywhere doing what I’m doing now, that I still have the chance to change my life.”

“I’ll hand it to you,” Sheila said, “you’re pretty good.”

“And then you’re gonna ask me questions,” Michael continued, “and I’m not gonna wanna answer them, but I don’t really have a choice here, so I’ll make it simple for you: I tore things up a bit, got busted, and now I’m here.”

“Simple isn’t enough for me,” the inspector said. “Actually, I was wondering if you could tell me what you were doing with this.” She opened a drawer and pulled out a familiar gun, encased in a plastic bag. Josh’s “precaution” gun.”

“That’s not mine,” he told her.

“Then whose is it?”

Michael stared at the gun, wondering if he should just tell. It would make things so much easier. But he couldn’t sell out Josh and Tess, could he?

“It’s not mine,” he repeated.

“I believe you,” she said. “The fingerprints on this gun don’t match your fingerprints. But if it’s not yours, then it has to be somebody else’s. So, tell me, who else was there?”

He remained silent as he stared at the gun.

“We’re going to find out eventually. It’s just a matter of time.”

“Then why should I tell you?”

“Well, it saves us a lot of time,” she told him, “but that doesn’t really matter to you. But it could also be favorable to you.”

“Favorable?”

“Well, I don’t mean that telling me who was with you just erases everything you’ve done, but it could make some people realize that you’re not as despicable as we’re beginning to think you are.”

Her words hurt, but he acted as if they didn’t.

“Who was with you?” she asked again.

He knew he didn’t have to tell her that Josh and Tess had taken part in this, but a strange part of him wanted to. A strange part of him wanted them to be punished as he was going to be. They deserved it just as much, if not more.

“Josh Jones,” he said quietly, “and Tess Harding.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael was surprised that he slept well that night. It was strange, but the jail cell was almost more comfortable than his own bedroom, but neither one was very comfortable at all.

They brought Tess and Josh in that next morning. Michael watched as they were led down to their own cells. Tess didn’t even meet his eyes as she passed him. Josh glared at him.

Later that day, Michael’s father came in. They sat down in a room with several police officers. Michael noticed that his father’s words were slurred, and his breath reeked of alcohol. He wondered if the police noticed it, too.

His father left without him. “You can keep him for as long as you want!” he shouted to the police on his way out. “I don’t want him!”

Michael hung his head, and he felt the eyes of everyone in the room, including the inspector with the leopard-framed glasses, boring holes into him. He didn’t want them to judge him by his father, but they probably already were.

That same day, Michael was told that he would have to do 120 hours of community service and help to clean up the school. It wasn’t a bad sentence. It could have been much worse. But it didn’t help his problem any, and even he was now starting to admit that he had a problem.

The inspector sat down and talked to him once more before he was released that day. “Do you have any questions about community service? If you do, I’ll try to answer them for you.”

“Not really,” he answered, unable to help but notice that she had a much less hostile approach than she had last time. Maybe she felt a little sorry for him after seeing his father. Maybe.

“Your friends will have quite a different punishment,” she told him, “since they’ve been in jail so many times before.”

Michael smiled, feeling a strange sense of satisfaction. He hated thinking that they deserved it, but at the same time, he loved it.

The inspector folded her hands and leaned forward, lowering her voice. “You know, Michael, you’re nineteen. I can’t force you to do something, but I can make a recommendation.”

He remained silent, listening and waiting.

“Get out of here. Get out of this town. Get out of this state. Just get away. There are too many people here influencing you to do the things you’re doing. Your friends. Your father.”

She had it completely right, and Michael almost felt like congratulating her for that, but he didn’t. “Where would I go?” he asked her.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Don’t you have a mother?”

He had never thought about that. “I don’t know,” he said. “She left. When I was two. I don’t even know her or remember her.”

“You could stay with some other family and friends.”

“I don’t have any.”

The inspector seemed saddened, and her sympathy showed. “I don’t know where you would go, Michael, but I do believe it would be beneficial for you to get away from all of these influences. Start over somewhere new.”

The idea was beginning to sound intriguing, but it didn’t sound possible at this point.

“I don’t know if I should even be telling you this,” she said, rising to her feet, “but after you get that gym cleaned up, you should really think about this. Talk to someone. Maybe you can work something out.” With that, she turned to leave the room, but Michael stopped her.

“Can you help me?” he asked her.

She turned around slowly, smiling. “I think I can.”





The pace will pick up soon, I promise! I just didn't want to rush the storyline so . . . *shrugs* Thanks for the feedback bre and roswellluver! My faithful readers! -April
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Post by April » Wed Nov 03, 2004 7:53 am

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Two days later, the school was spotless again. Michael had worked with a group of volunteers to clean it up, and now it was back to the way it had been.

One week later, Michael met with the inspector, Sheila, again. This time, she visited Michael’s house. (House was a generous word. The dump of a trailer he lived in could hardly be called a house.)

“Sorry about the mess,” Michael apologized as he let the woman inside. He kicked a few empty beer bottles out of the way and cleared a path for her to step inside. She didn’t say anything as she surveyed his surroundings. He was glad she didn’t.

Hank Guerin was in his chair again, in a state between passing out and being with it. A beer bottle was in his hand, as always, and he had the television up so loud that he did not even hear the inspector come in.

“Does he work?” Sheila asked him.

“Sometimes.”

“Where do you get any money?”

“My friend.” He left out what Tess’s actual job was.

The inspector sighed. “Well . . . should we sit down and talk?”

Michael looked around the trailer. His father was occupying the only chair in the house. There wasn’t any place to sit. “Maybe we should go outside,” he suggested.

When they were outside, Sheila started in right away. “I’ve been doing some research,” she said, “about your mother.” She opened up a folder and took out a picture of a woman with short, dark hair and a man standing beside her with his arm around her. “Amy Guerin and your father divorced when you were two. Amy let your father have custody and she left for California. A few years later she was married to Jim DeLuca. They’re currently living in Long Beach, California with Jim’s daughter.”

She had a life. She had this entire other life that Michael wasn’t a part of. He resented her for that, but he didn’t let on to it.

“I spoke with your mother yesterday,” Sheila told him.

“Has she forgotten about me?”

“Not at all. In fact, when I told her about your situation and let her know how I’m trying to help you start over, she said that she was interested in helping you, too.”

“What do you mean?”

Sheila smiled. “She said that she would be willing to let you stay in Long Beach with her for awhile. You don’t have to stay forever. You could just stay for a couple of weeks, and if you don’t like it, then you can leave.”

Michael was in a state of shock. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that he might go to stay with his mother and her new family. “She doesn’t even know me,” he said. “I don’t even know her.”

“But you’re still her son.”

Michael stared at the photograph again. The woman in the picture was his mother, and she wanted to be a part of his life now. “When does she want me to be there?”

“Whenever you like. Michael, I really encourage you to take this opportunity. She sounds like a very nice woman who really wants to get to know you better.”

Michael sighed. “I don’t know. I think I should go, but . . .”

“But it’s all kind of strange. I understand. Let’s go talk to your father.”

“He doesn’t care,” Michael reminded her. “I could leave tonight and he wouldn’t even notice.”

“I think we should talk to him anyway.”

As Michael had suspected, his father didn’t care. In fact, he didn’t even seem to comprehend what they were telling him.

“If he chooses to, Michael will be leaving for California!” Sheila had to shout to get through to Hank Guerin. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I understand what you’re saying,” Hank said at last. “I just don’t understand why you’re helping him. Damn boy don’t have a future.”

“How inspirational,” Michael muttered sarcastically.

“I disagree,” Sheila said, “and that is why I’m helping him.”

“This isn’t even your job,” Hank muttered. “Bitch.”

She stood, apparently having had enough of the drunken man. “I think I should leave now,” she said, making her way to the door. “I’ll talk to your mother again and see if we can work something out. That is, if you want to go.”

Michael took one look back at his father and at the cluttered, trashy trailer, and then answered the woman. “I do.”

“When would you like to leave?” she asked him.

“As soon as possible.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Three days later, Michael met with the inspector again, this time at the police station.

“I spoke with Amy DeLuca again,” she said, “and she still wants you to go to Long Beach. Do you still want to?”

He nodded.

“Then there’s a flight out of Santa Fe to Los Angeles tomorrow at noon if you’re ready.”

He took a minute to process the information. Tomorrow, he could be in another state with another group of people that he didn’t even know. He could start over.

“I’ll be ready,” he said. “It is kinda sudden, but . . . I wanna go. I got nothing here, so why the hell not?”

“It is kind of sudden, and it might be a little strange once you first get there, but I think that this will be really good for you in the long run.” She handed Michael his plane ticket. “I already booked everything,” she told him. “I even paid for everything.”

“You didn’t have to . . .”

“I can get you to the airport tomorrow, if you’d like,” she said, cutting him off. “How’s that sound?”

“Yeah, that sounds . . . thanks,” he said. “Do you think there’s any way I could talk to a few people before I leave?”

“Who?”

“Josh Jones,” he said. “I feel like I should at least tell him that I’m leaving.”

A short time later, Michael was back in jail, this time on the free side. He and Josh sat down across from each other at a table separated by a sheet of glass. Josh didn’t look at all pleased to see him, but picked up the phone on his side to talk anyway. Michael did the same.

“Must be nice to be a free man,” Josh commented. “I’m in here for 40 days.”

Michael sighed. He knew that Josh was aware that he had told the police who was with him. “They would’ve found out that you guys were with me regardless of whether I told them or not,” Michael reminded him.

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“I’m sorry,” Michael told him. “Look, I just stopped by here to tell you that I’m leaving. Hooked things up with my mom in California. I’m gonna go stay with her for awhile.”

“Why?”

Michael didn’t want to tell him why. He didn’t need to know. “I just wanna get away,” he said. It was partially the truth.

“Away from what?”

“You know. Everything.” You, he added silently, and my dad.

“Where you goin’ in California?”

“Long Beach. It’s supposed to be pretty nice.”

Josh grunted and shook his head. “Long Beach isn’t you,” he said. “The people there aren’t like you and me. Do you think they’re all gonna welcome you with open arms? You’re gonna be as miserable there as you are here, you know that?”

“Maybe. But I gotta try it.”

Josh shook his head again, looking disappointed. “How long you gonna stay?”

“I don’t know.”

“You ever comin’ back?”

“I don’t know,” Michael repeated.

Josh slammed his fist down on the table, angry now. “This is fuckin’ crazy, man,” he said. “You know how much Tess and I have done for you? If it wasn’t for us, you’d still be that same little braniac that you were back when you were in middle school. You’d still get picked on and made fun of. People would still steal your lunch.” He chuckled. “But Tess and I came along and brought you in with us, and now I don’t even know why.” He slammed his fist down again. “Dammit, Michael! We’ve been there for you all this time and now you’re leaving us!”

“Deal with it,” Michael told him coldly. “Just deal with it, Josh, and do me a favor. Let Tess know I’m gone.” With that, he put the phone down and stood, turning his back on Josh and the “friend” that had been there for him for years to go home and pack for California.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I’m leaving, Dad,” Michael announced the next morning as he hauled his few items out the door. “Goodbye?” When his father didn’t answer, he figured he was passed out again. “I guess not.”

Sheila was waiting for him outside in her car, ready to take him to the airport. “Did you say goodbye to your father?” she asked him as he climbed in the passenger’s seat with stuff.

He shrugged. “More or less.”

When they neared the airport, things started to seem a little more real. He was leaving. He was finally getting out of Roswell, New Mexico. He was finally getting away from his father’s drunken lifestyle and away from Josh and Tess’s tendencies. He was going to a place where nobody knew him, not even his mother. He didn’t have to be the same guy he was now, but he didn’t have to be the kid he was in middle school, either.

He felt good, but he felt nervous, too. What if Long Beach wasn’t much better than Roswell? What if he didn’t get along with Amy DeLuca and her family? What if they decided that they didn’t want him there at last minute and sent him home before he even got the chance to see the house?

“We’re here,” Sheila told him, pulling up to the main entrance of the Santa Fe airport. “Do you still have your ticket?”

Michael felt his pocket and nodded.

“Do you have everything else?”

He nodded again.

“Then I’d say you’re ready. Amy and Jim will find you at the Los Angeles airport when you arrive.”

Michael reached for his few items in the back seat and opened the door. He stepped out of the car and slung his bag over his shoulder and started making his way inside when he remembered that he had forgotten something. He turned and made his way back to the car, leaning down and peering inside. “Thank you,” he told Sheila. She smiled, and he turned and started inside again.

The airport was a new experience. Michael had never been to the airport before, because he had never been outside of New Mexico. Hell, he had barely been outside of Roswell.

The plane was also a new experience. It was smaller than he had imagined it would be, and the seats were more comfortable than he had thought that they would be. He wasn’t happy about the fact that he got stuck sitting next to a whiny fourth grade girl, but he dealt with it.

As they took off and as they passed over New Mexico, Michael Guerin realized that this was real and that he really was leaving. There was no turning back now.





TBC...
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Post by April » Thu Nov 04, 2004 7:58 am

Los Angeles, California

“We’re going to be late.”

“We won’t be late.”

“We’re already late. His plane landed fifteen minutes ago, Jim!”

“Amy, it’s not my fault that we got into this traffic jam in the first place. I said we could take Interstate 88, but you didn’t want to.”

“Because I don’t like interstate traffic, Jim, and I hate merging onto it.”

“And because of that, we’re stuck here.”

“You didn’t have to take Highway 60. You didn’t have to listen to me. It’s not my fault.”

From the backseat of the Mercedes Benz, Maria DeLuca let out a heavy sigh. “Okay, I can’t take this,” she said in reference to her parents’ bickering. “It doesn’t matter how we got in this mess. We’re here now, so we deal.”

“Well, I don’t mean to get on your nerves, Maria, but we are in a stand-still and Michael is waiting at the airport right now for us.”

Maria rolled her eyes at the mention of Michael Guerin, the stepbrother she had no desire to get to know, and her mother noticed it.

“What’s wrong with you?” Amy asked. “This is a happy day. You’re supposed to be happy.”

“This isn’t a happy day and I’m not happy.”

“Why not?”

She sighed. “Because you guys just decided that it was okay for him to live with us without even consulting me first.”

Amy DeLuca gave her daughter a look. “Maria, you’re seventeen.”

“So? I’m still a member of this family! I still have an opinion! You could have at least told me all of this before last night!”

“I should have,” Amy admitted. “I should have given you more notice. I’m sorry about that.”

“If you had told me sooner, I might have had time to tell you some things that I’m not so sure I like about him.”

“You don’t even know him,” Jim reminded her.

“True, but I do know that he was in jail.”

“Apparently he’s had a pretty tough life,” Amy said.

“Exactly! What if he comes here and makes our lives tough?” Maria knew she was sounding like a whiny second grader, but this was all so sudden for her, and she couldn’t pretend to be happy about it. “What if everything changes when he comes?”

“Nothing will change,” Amy reassured her. “Maria, we don’t even know how long he’s going to stay. He might only stay for a few weeks.”

“Yeah, but he might also stay for a few months. Or a few years!”

“He won’t stay for years. He’s already nineteen.”

“You see? He’s nineteen! What kind of a nineteen year old guy is still in high school! He’s been in jail, he’s obviously flunked a year! What kind of a guy are we letting into our house?”

“As I said, he’s had a tough life. That’s why we’re helping him out.”

“I still don’t see why we have to help him. We don’t even know him! He’s gonna be a complete stranger in our house!”

Amy sighed and hung her head. “I wish he wasn’t,” she said. “I should have called him or written him or even gone down to visit him. I know now that leaving him with Hank was the wrong thing to do. It hasn’t been good for him, and I regret that.”

“So you’re doing this out of guilt?”

“Maria, I’ve heard enough for one day!” Jim bellowed all at once. “Now you are going to make your best effort to get to know your stepbrother and make him feel comfortable in our house! Understood?” When Maria said nothing, he repeated himself. “Understood?”

“Understood.”

All three sat in an awkward and uncomfortable silence for a short time, and then the traffic started to move.

“Finally!” Amy shouted joyfully. “Now we can get moving!”

“If we had just taken I-88 . . .” Jim muttered.

“Stop it, Jim,” Amy warned, smacking him on the arm playfully, “and step on it. We’re so late already.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll be there soon.”

The thought of arriving at the airport and greeting her new stepbrother made Maria uncomfortable. She didn’t like the fact that he was staying in Long Beach, and she was going to make sure he knew that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Was I supposed to meet them somewhere? Michael asked himself. He had been sitting at the gate where he had gotten off of the plane for a half and hour now. It seemed like he was the only one left in this area of the airport, and it didn’t seem like anyone was coming to get him.

He started going through possibilities in his head. The most logical explanation was that he had missed something in Sheila’s directions, though he was fairly certain that she had told him that Amy and Jim DeLuca would find him at the Los Angeles airport.

Perhaps they had forgotten about him. Maybe they thought that he was coming on Saturday instead of Friday. Maybe they thought he was arriving next Friday.

As he sat there, his mind started coming up with insane ideas. He thought about the fact that he had never spoken to Amy or Jim. Everything had been arranged by Sheila and through Sheila. There was the possibility that this was all a huge hoax, that none of this was real. Maybe Amy and Jim didn’t even know he was in Los Angeles, and maybe Sheila had set this entire thing up just to humiliate him, but it was hard to imagine Sheila doing that. She had been so supportive of him. Of course, there was the crazy possibility that it could have all been an act.

Whatever the reason, Amy and Jim were not there, and he was sitting all by himself, thinking about what he might do if they never did show up. He would probably have to spend the night in the airport. Then he would scrape up enough money to buy himself a burger and rent a hotel room for the night. Then he would go from there. He couldn’t ask Sheila for any more help. He felt too guilty about it already. He would just have to make it on his own. It would be tough. Money would be tight. There was a possibility he might not make it.

“Michael?”

He heard his name from an unfamiliar voice, and he looked over his shoulder. Standing before him were Amy and Jim DeLuca from the picture. Amy still had short brown hair, and she had brown eyes, too. As Michael looked at her, he couldn’t help but realize that they didn’t really look much alike.

I guess I’m more like my dad, he thought bitterly.

Jim was a proud man. That much was obvious just from the way he stood. He didn’t smile, but it was still clear to Michael that he had perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth. He was wearing some pretty expensive-looking clothes, too. It was these little things that Michael noticed about his stepfather.

“Hi, Michael!” Amy said excitedly. She opened her arms as if she were about to hug him, but she didn’t. “I’m Amy,” she said, extending her hand in greeting. “I’m . . .” She hesitated. “I’m you’re mother.”

Michael shook her hand. It felt quite awkward shaking the hand of the woman who had given birth to him. “Hi,” he said quietly.

“And this is Jim,” Amy said, pointing to and introducing the proud man standing next to her. “My husband, your stepfather.”

“Hello, Michael,” Jim greeted with a nod of his head.

“Hi.” He felt so uncomfortable. He didn’t know what to say, what to do. He was worried that if he said the wrong thing or did the wrong thing, they would turn their backs on him and leave, and then he would have to resort to his taking it day by day plan, just barely getting along.

“And this,” Jim said, stepping aside, “is my daughter, Maria. Your stepsister.”

As Jim stepped aside, a small, blonde-haired girl came into view. She was pretty, but not at all happy. That much was obvious. She didn’t welcome Michael in the slightest. She didn’t smile at him the way Amy did. She didn’t even say hello. He felt like she was looking him over, examining him, almost.

“Hey, Maria,” he said, trying to be friendly. She didn’t say anything.

“Maria!” Amy shouted in a whisper, jabbing her daughter in the arm with her elbow. She gave her a warning look, and Maria gave in. “Hey,” she said with very little enthusiasm.

“We’re very happy to have you here, Michael,” Amy told him with another smile. “All of us.”

Maria rolled her eyes, and Michael noticed. It was impossible not to.

“Well, let’s get heading home,” Jim suggested. “It’s not a long drive, but it’s a little ways. It’ll give you some time to see the scenery here in California, I guess.”

“And we can talk on the way home,” Amy added. “I want to know all about you, Michael.”

He tried his best to smile, but it was hard, because, inside, all he could think about was how badly he didn’t want to tell her or anyone else in this family everything there was to know about him.

Maria stopped at an Arby’s fast food place on her way out of the airport and picked up some curly fries quickly. “Maria, let’s go!” Amy shouted.

“I’m coming!” Maria shouted back. She hurried to catch up with the group, but she hung back. Her annoyance with everything was so clear to Michael and probably to everybody else. He could tell just by the way she talked and by the way she walked that she was pretty pissed off.

All of a sudden, as they were making their way across the parking lot, a young girl and a woman who appeared to be her mother stopped Jim. “Can I have your autograph?” one girl asked him.

Jim laughed. “Of course.” He took a pen from one girl and signed the back of her shirt.

“Thank you so much!” both the girl and her mother exclaimed as they waved goodbye to Jim and continued into the airport.

What the hell was that? Michael thought. Amy must have noticed the confused look on his face, because she explained the situation to him.

“Jim’s on a television show,” she told him, “The Quiet Storm. Have you ever heard of it?”

“Uh, no.”

“Well, it’s quite popular, and Jim has so many fans that have stuck with him over the years. It’s really great.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Michael agreed. He was still trying to get over the fact that his stepfather was a television star.

They stopped at a gold Mercedes Benz, and Michael’s mouth almost dropped open. He had never seen one of these cars, (People didn’t drive cars like this in Roswell) but he had always wanted to see one or ride in one.

“Is this your car?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“Yep,” Jim said. “Limited production model. Cost a pretty penny, let me tell you.”

“I’m sure.” Michael opened the back door and got in, admiring the comfortable leather seats. He shut the door carefully, afraid that he might do something to damage the car.

“I wanna sit in the front,” Maria said, trying to get to the door before her mother.

Amy gave her another look. “Maria,” she said quietly, but not quietly enough for Michael to not hear her, “you’re acting like a child.”

Maria rolled her eyes (again with the annoyance) and went around to the other side, reluctantly getting in the back with Michael.

She hates me, he thought. She hates me and she doesn’t even know me. Nothing I can do about it.

“Maria, why don’t you share some of your fries with Michael,” Amy suggested.

A shocked expression came across Maria’s face. “I bought them!” she protested.

“Maria . . .” Amy turned around in her seat and gave her a warning smile, and that was all it took. With a giant, annoyed sigh, Maria handed the remaining curly fries over to Michael.

“Thanks,” he said, “but you can have them if you want.”

Sending her mother a smile of her own, Maria reached for her fries back and popped one in her mouth, seeming completely satisfied.

“On second thought, I might have a handful,” Michael said.

The satisfied smile vanished from Maria’s face, and she hesitantly let him take a handful for himself.

Wow, we’re getting along great, he thought sarcastically.

“So, Michael, tell me about yourself. Tell me about Roswell. What’s your life like?” Amy was already so interested in him, and he didn’t feel that he knew her well enough to tell her anything, but he didn’t want to seem cold and ungrateful for all that they had given him. He had to tell her something.

“Roswell’s, uh . . . pretty uneventful,” he said. “Not much to tell.”

“How’s Hank?” Amy asked. “I haven’t really talked to him since the divorce.”

“Uh . . . yeah, he’s okay.” He didn’t want to elaborate on that one. He wasn’t going to talk about his father. Not yet. Maybe not ever again.

“What was school like?”

He hated all of these questions. He felt like he was being interrogated by the FBI. “School is . . . school,” he answered. “It used to be pretty easy, but, it got harder, you know.”

Amy nodded.

“You’re nineteen,” Maria suddenly said in between chews. “You’re still in high school.”

Thanks, Captain Obvious, he thought. “Yeah, I failed my Freshman year.”

“What about jail?” Maria asked, continuing her bold approach to inquiry. “Why were you in jail?”

This was exactly the kind of thing that he hadn’t wanted to answer, not right away at least. Maybe they already knew. Maybe not. Maybe Sheila had already told him. Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe they might be blown out of the water by it and decide to dump him on the side of the road.

He had to stop with these insane possibilities of his.

Even when he didn’t answer, Maria didn’t back down. “Did you kill a guy?”

“MARIA!” Amy and Jim both shrieked in unison.

“No, I didn’t kill a guy!”

“Did you attempt suicide?”

“No!”

“Rape somebody?”

“MARIA!” Amy exclaimed. “I have just about had it with you.”

“I’m just wondering.”

“If you must know,” Michael said, figuring it was best that they know, “a few friends and I vandalized the school and got busted for it.”

A look of disappointment crashed across Amy’s features, but she hid it almost instantly with another one of her smiles. “Well, you’ve learned a valuable lesson, then, haven’t you?”

He nodded.

The rest of the car ride home was relatively peaceful, except for a few comments here and there from Maria. Michael had to admit it, his stepsister had a fire about her. A part of him hated it. Another part of him almost respected it. Almost.

“Not too far now,” Jim announced as they drove. Michael looked out his window at his new surroundings. The sun was setting, and people were venturing out to live it up for the night. Everything was different in Long Beach than in Roswell. It was so much brighter and so much louder. There were a lot more clubs and bars and places for entertainment. There was a lot more rap music being played than rock music. The clothes were different, too. Michael had always heard that the west coast was up on the new fashions, and apparently they were.

It was kind of overwhelming at first, but he was happy with what he saw.

“Oh, Mom, I think I saw Isabel at The DanceLands. Can I get out and hang with her tonight?” Maria’s confident, bold voice had turned into a pleading one.

“No,” Amy answered at once. “We’re spending tonight with Michael.”

Maria didn’t roll her eyes this time, but Michael knew she was in her head.

As they drove on, they started getting into a more residential area of Long Beach. From what Michael could see, people were living very well there. They were in a neighborhood where the houses were very big. Some of them even could be called gigantic. These houses made Michael’s trailer seem microscopic.

Jim pulled the Mercedes Benz into a driveway smoothly, and Michael got out of the car to look at the house in which he would be staying. He didn’t expect it to be gigantic like the others . . .

. . . but it was.

It towered above the rest of the houses. It had a four car garage. Out back, he caught glimpse of a swimming pool and a small running waterfall. There was a huge wrap-around porch, too, and awesome double doors at the entrance. The whole house was amazing. Michael had never seen a house like this before.

“This is where we live!” Amy exclaimed excitedly, standing at Michael’s side. She must have noticed the shocked expression on his face, because she started to laugh a little.

“Wow,” was all that Michael could get out.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it!” For the first time since he had gotten off of the plane, Michael found that he was genuinely smiling, too. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting a place like this.”

“I told you. Jim’s famous.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know he was so famous that you guys can live like this. How famous is he?”

“Well,” Amy said, “I don’t even have to work, if that tells you anything.”

“Wow,” Michael said again. “This . . . this is awesome.”

Amy laughed a little again. “I’m glad you like it. Come inside.”

He grabbed his suitcase and all the rest of his stuff, making his way up the steps and in through the huge double doors, realizing that, in one day, he had gone from living in a trashed trailer to living in this . . . mansion was the only word that seemed to fit.

The inside was just as impressive, if not more. Everything was spotless. There was no trash on the floor. No empty beer bottles. No passed out man sitting in the chair with the TV on. No Roswell.

There was impressive furniture, expensive appliances, a huge, grand staircase. Michael still could not believe his eyes.

“Now, it’s not a small house,” Jim said, “so it might take you a few days to learn your way around.”

“Holy shit,” Michael said quietly as he looked around. This place was insane, in a good way.

“I’m going to get dinner going,” Amy announced, glancing at the clock. “Maria, why don’t you show Michael to his room.”

The look on Maria’s face made it clear that she was not loving that idea, but her mother wasn’t giving her a choice. Michael grabbed his things and followed Maria up the stairs.

“That’s my room down there,” she told him, pointing to the end of the hallway upstairs. “Don’t go in there unless I tell you that you can. But I’m not gonna tell you that you can, so just don’t go in there. Ever.” She opened a door on the other side of the hallway, revealing a huge room. “This is your room,” she told him, again with very little enthusiasm. “Enjoy.”

When she left, Michael took a moment to survey his new bedroom. It had to have been at least four times the size of his bedroom back in the trailer in Roswell. He had at least a queen-sized bed, a solid wood desk, a walk in closet that was way to big for his few clothing items, a television, a cd player, and all of these other things that he had never had before. And he had his own bathroom. That was a bonus.

It didn’t take him long to unpack. He had barely brought anything with him. When he was done, he lay down on his bed and waited for dinner, wondering how things could change so drastically and so much for the better within such a short amount of time.
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Post by April » Fri Nov 05, 2004 7:57 am

roswellluver: Michael's definitely not in Kansas (New Mexico) anymore!

baby_bre: I can assure you that Isabel is not evil in this! She's probably one of the nicest people in the entire fic. There are other characters, though, that might fall into that 'evil' category, but I'm not gonna tell you who! Anyway, as for the Maria character, she is kind of a spoiled brat at first, but you're right, that will most definitely change. Maria's just misunderstood and confused the way any seventeen year-old girl is bound to be at some time.

Thanks for the feedback!


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Dinner’s ready!”

Maria made her way down the stairs and smelt barbecue. She saw that her mother had made barbequed beef sandwiches again. Frankly, Maria was getting sick of barbequed beef. Every time they had someone over, they had barbequed beef, and they had been having people over a lot lately. Of course the sandwiches were tasty, but after awhile, they were just kind of the same old thing over and over again.

Jim sat at the head of the table, and Amy and Maria sat beside him, leaving Michael to sit at the other end of the table. It felt strange, having another person sitting at the table. It felt different.

Different was a word for change. Things were changing. Things would continue to change. Even though Amy had promised Maria that they wouldn’t, it was obvious that they would, and they would change because of Michael Guerin. Maria had started to hate him before she had even started to know him, and she was well aware of the fact that she wasn’t giving him a fair chance, and she didn’t care.

Amy talked through the whole dinner. She kept asking Michael questions. He seemed really uncomfortable answering a few of them, especially ones about his father. He was quieter than Maria had expected him to be. She didn’t know if the reason for this was that he just arrived in California and was feeling uncomfortable or if this was just him. She didn’t care to find out. All she needed to know was that he was her stepbrother and she did not like him, because things with him were different. Changing.

Amy went on to explain Jim’s acting career. “Jim’s been acting on The Quiet Storm for three years now. Three years, right?”

“Right,” Jim said, “but I was acting before that. It’s funny. I never thought I would choose acting as a career, but after Maria was born and her mother died, I knew I had to support her somehow. I never thought it would turn into this, though.” He motioned to the house around him. “It’s fantastic, isn’t it?” he said with a cheesy grin.

Michael nodded in agreement.

“That was when I found him,” Amy said. “I had just moved to California with this crazy idea that I was going to have my own cooking show. I met Jim and fell in love with him the moment I saw him.”

With all of this talk about love, Maria felt like she was going to gag. She couldn’t stand to hear her parents talk about how much they loved each other. It was sweet and kind and beautiful, yes, but on a higher level, it was just sickening. No daughter wanted or needed to hear that.

“I fell in love with Maria, too,” Amy continued. “I’ve known her since she was four, and that’s why, even though I didn’t give birth to her, I still consider her my daughter in every sense of the word.”

“Mom, don’t talk about giving birth while we’re eating,” Maria told her.

“Why not, honey?”

“Because it’s sick.”

Amy laughed a little. “It is not sick, I assure you. It’s a beautiful thing.”

“Well, yeah maybe, but I saw this video in class a few days ago and it sure didn’t seem beautiful. It seemed sick.”

“Then we won’t talk about birth. Or falling in love or anything like that, okay?”

“Thank God.”

“We’ll talk about you.”

She didn’t want to talk about herself. “There’s not much to say. You guys know me pretty well, don’t you think?”

“Well, Michael doesn’t know you.”

Maria glanced at Michael, who was sitting silent beside her at the opposite end of the table as her father. “I don’t want him to know me!” she told her mother angrily.

“Well, he’s going to.” Amy barely even seemed to have heard Maria. “Let’s see . . . Oh! Maria’s on the school’s dance team! She’s the team captain, in fact. Sometimes she learns dances from other schools and then teaches them to the rest of the team. Sometimes she makes them up herself. Sometimes they get together with the cheerleaders, too, and do one big routine. That’s pretty extravagant, let me tell you.”

“Mom, nobody cares,” Maria groaned.

Amy kept right on going, though. “Do you have a new dance made up? You know your next performance is in a week.”

“I’ll get it made up.”

“You better work on it tomorrow. It’s going to be really hard to top the one you guys did with the cheerleaders for homecoming, though. That was awesome.”

“You know what else you need to do?” Jim put in. “Study the driver’s book. I don’t want you failing that test again.”

“It’s not the written test that I keep failing,” Maria reminded him. “It’s the actual hands-on driving.”

“Then we should practice around here tomorrow before you take it again. I’m not having you fail three times.”

Maria felt slightly embarrassed. Even though she didn’t care what Michael thought of her, she still didn’t care for him to know that she had failed the driving test twice already. That was something he could use against her if he ever wanted to.

“We also need to start looking at colleges,” her father went on. “If you want to have a career in acting, you can’t just rely on luck like I did. I got lucky and everything worked out. You might not.”

Maria sank back in her seat and pushed her dinner plate away from her. She didn’t feel like eating anymore. Now she just felt like throwing that plate of food in her father’s face. Or her mother’s. Or Michael’s.

“What’s wrong?” Amy asked her, concerned.

Maria ran her hands through her hair. She could never tell them what was wrong. She could never tell them that they drove her crazy at times because they suffocated her to the extreme. They wouldn’t understand. They probably wouldn’t even listen.

“Nothing,” she lied. “I’m . . . I’m just gonna go up to my room.” She pushed her chair back and got up.

“But honey, I have dessert!” Amy called after her.

“I don’t want any.”

As she was going up the stairs, she heard Jim apologizing to Michael. “She’s usually not like this. I don’t know what’s going on with her.” Maria resisted the urge to go downstairs and yell her father out. It was tempting, but she couldn’t, because that wouldn’t matter to him.

She locked herself in her room, wanting desperately to be alone right now. She didn’t cry, because the issues eating away at her weren’t worth it. She would not let herself cry because of a stupid driver’s test and a nonexistent acting career. At least not right now.

But the driver’s test was more than the passage to having a license. Every time it was mentioned, every time she was reminded that she failed, she felt so incredibly stupid and just unable to pass. She hated the way she felt around her father when he mentioned it. She felt inferior. She felt lesser.

The acting thing was another issue. Ever since she had entered high school and played Juliet in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Jim seemed to have it in his head that she was born to be an actress, that she would follow in his footsteps. But she didn’t want to be an actress. She never had, and starring in that play had just proved that for her. Acting wasn’t her passion. It never had been.

Truthfully, she didn’t know what her passion was, what she wanted to be in life. She used to think that she wanted to be a teacher, but the one time that she had told Jim that, he had freaked out. He had erupted like a volcano and gone on and on to tell her that teachers did not make a large sum of money.

Maybe she would never be a teacher. Maybe she would never be anything extravagant, because if the driver’s test was any indication of her intelligence . . .

Maria DeLuca knew she had lots of things to deal with, and she knew she had to deal with them alone, because no one else even bothered to care.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael woke up the next morning and slipped into a short state of shock when he saw his surroundings. For an short time, he wondered what the hell had happened to the trailer, but then he remembered. He didn’t live in the trailer with his father anymore, and he wasn’t in Roswell.

He got in the shower right after he got up. It was huge shower. Probably really expensive, too. The hot water was actually hot, there wasn’t rust or mold anywhere. It was so much different than Roswell. Everything was different. Everything was better.

After he got dressed and dried off his hair, Michael picked up his towel and made his way down the stairs to the laundry room, or rather what he believed to be the laundry room. When he opened the door, though, he found Amy in her and Jim’s bedroom sitting at her dresser, putting on make-up.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Michael apologized. He looked around, wondering where in the hell the laundry room was. This house was so damn huge.

“Are you lost, Michael?” Amy asked him with a smile.

“Yeah, a little,” he answered with a slight laugh, embarrassed. “Where’s the laundry room?”

“Basement,” Amy answered, pointing down.

“Right.” He left Amy alone again, heading downstairs. He heard an upbeat rap song playing as he went down the stairs, and when he was at the bottom, he saw Maria dancing. She was watching herself in two, large full-length mirrors. She was so absorbed in what she was doing that she didn’t even notice her. Michael had to admit that she was really good. She could do all this weird stuff that most people couldn’t do. She did all of these jumps, and sometimes she did the splits in mid air. It was actually pretty impressive.

When she turned to the back, she saw Michael and stopped dancing. “What’re you doing?” she asked him.

He held up his towel. “Laundry,” he said. He opened a door to his right, throwing his towel onto a pile of dirty clothes. “How do you do that?” he asked her.

“Do what?”

“That jumping shit.”

“It’s not that hard.”

“How do you---”

“Look, I have a lot to make up yet, so . . . just get out of here.”

It wasn’t looking like his stepsister was going to become any nicer at this point, so Michael went back upstairs to his bedroom to watch TV.

“Maria, let’s go driving!” he heard Jim shout from the main level just as he had gotten comfortable in front of the television.

“Dad, I can’t! I have to get this made up!” she called over the music from downstairs.

“You could have made it up a week ago! Come on! Let’s go driving!”

“Dad---”

“Now!”

Michael listened as the music was shut off and as an angry Maria stomped up the stairs.

“Grab your coat and let’s go,” Jim said.

“I really have to make that dance up, Dad.”

“Maria . . .” His voice was a warning. Maria received a lot of those.

Michael heard the two of them exit out the front door, and he had to force himself to not feel a little bit sorry for his stepsister. Sure, Jim seemed like a nice guy, but he controlled every little thing she did, and so did Amy, to a lesser extent. Michael wasn’t sure if he would have been able to live with them his whole life, but it certainly would have been better than living with Hank. Although living with Maria would be and was proving to be challenging.

So Michael didn’t feel sorry for her. He almost did, but he would not allow himself to.

A half an hour later, when Michael was downstairs eating some scrambled eggs that Amy had made, Maria and Jim returned. Jim entered the house sighing and shaking his head like he was disappointed.

“How did it go?” Amy asked, smiling as always.

Jim just continued to shake his head, almost angrily now.

“Not good?” Amy guessed.

“She hit a mailbox,” Jim announced, “and a tree.” He gave Maria a hostile look. “Put a nice little dent in the car.”

“In the Mercedes?” Amy asked.

“No, I’d never let her drive the Mercedes. Just the Taurus.”

“Hey, I might drive the Mercedes someday!” Maria piped up. “I might be really good!”

Jim chuckled sarcastically and shook his head some more. “Maria,” he said, “I just don’t understand why driving is so hard for you. Why aren’t you getting it?”

She looked tempted to do the eye roll, but she didn’t. “It might help if someone would actually teach me.”

“I’ve been teaching you,” Jim said, “for a year now, Maria! And what about driver’s ed? Didn’t you learn anything in there?”

“Actually, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I was sleeping!”

“Oh, my God, Maria . . .”

“Yeah! I was sleeping! I was tired and the class was boring, so I slept! And, you know, I probably even snored, but I didn’t care, ‘cause I was tired! So I slept through that entire class and I am proud of it!”

Michael smiled a little and tried to hide it. This was the side of Maria that he almost respected because she was so bold and unafraid to speak her mind.

“All right, you two need to calm down,” Amy said, stepping in between the father and daughter and separating them. “Maria . . . just go upstairs and read the drivers’ manual or something.”

“But I have to finish making up that dance!”

“Just go read the drivers’ manual!” Amy snapped. She was obviously losing her patience very fast. “Jim, have some breakfast or something, and just calm down. I’m gonna go look at the car.” Holding her head like she was getting a migraine, Amy went outside.

Jim sat down beside Michael and helped himself to the remaining scrambled eggs. He looked completely exasperated and worn out by his daughter.

“This house isn’t always this dramatic,” he assured Michael. “It’s just Maria . . . I don’t know why she’s acting like this.”

Michael had a pretty good idea. “She doesn’t want me here,” he said, stating the obvious, but he was fairly certain that there was more to it than just that.

“You’re right,” Jim told him. “She doesn’t. But Amy does. And so do I. So she’s just gonna have to deal with it. And she will. In time. Once you’ve been here longer and once she gets to know you better, things will be normal around here.”

“I don’t think she wants to get to know me.”


“No, she doesn’t.” His eyes started dancing around like he was thinking of something. “But she will.” He got out of his seat and went to the bottom of the staircase. “Maria!” he shouted. “Come down here!”

“Mom said I’m supposed to read the drivers’ manual!” she shouted back.

“Yeah, well I’m telling you to come down here!”

In a short time, Maria was making her way down the stairs, looking very unhappy. “What now?”

“I want you and Michael to go upstairs and talk for awhile.”

Maria gave him a disbelieving look. “No! I have other stuff to do! I should be making up that dance right now!”

“There are more important things than dancing, Maria. So take a little time out of your oh-so-hectic life to get to know your stepbrother.”





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Post by April » Sat Nov 06, 2004 12:37 pm

.................











This is pointless, Maria thought. She had been sitting up in Michael’s room for at least fifteen minutes now, and they hadn’t said anything to each other. She had no desire to get to know him, and it didn’t seem like he had a particularly strong desire to get to know her, either.

“This is stupid,” she finally said. “I have better stuff to do.” She got up and opened the door, but Jim was sitting out in the hallway reading a book, and the minute he saw her try to leave, he directed her back in. Reluctantly, knowing that she didn’t exactly have a choice, Maria closed the door again and sat back down.

They were both silent for at least another five minutes, and then Michael asked, “Why don’t you want me here?”

“What makes you think I don’t want you here?” she asked in return with a strong sense of sarcasm.

“Basically everything. So why don’t you?”

“I just don’t.”

“That’s a hell of an answer.”

She couldn’t help but sigh heavily. “Look, I just don’t want things to be different. Now with you here, you could sneak up to my room someday and read my diary, which, by the way, you will never do unless you want to live a very short life. There’s all these other things, too, that I have to think about now that I never had to before. And it’s all so sudden. I didn’t even know you were coming until a few nights ago. It’s all happening so fast, and I know that things are going to be different.”

“Would that be such a bad thing?”

She was so surprised by his question that she didn’t know how to answer at first. “What . . . what are you talking about?”

“Well, I don’t know you very well, Maria, but I can kinda tell: You’re not as happy as people think you are.”

He was right on the money, and that was creepy. He had barely been here a day and he had already realized that. Maybe all of the eye-rolling had given him too strong of a hint.

“Don’t even try to use this psychology stuff on me!” she told him, rising to her feet. “That’s not fair! I’ve never taken psychology before!”

“I’ve never taken psychology, either.”

“Yeah! Yeah, well . . . it sure seems like you have! But you know what? I’m not falling for it! I’m not telling you anything about me!”

“You don’t have to.” The more she spoke, the more confused Michael seemed to become.

“Sometimes I’m happy, sometime’s I’m sad, and that’s completely normal!” she continued, unable to stop herself. “And sometimes I’m pissed off, and that’s what I am right now and---” She realized she was rambling on and on (quite loudly, in fact), and she had a feeling that she wasn’t even making any sense anymore. “And I’m leaving,” she finished quietly. She opened the door again and ignored her father this time as he told her to go back in the room and talk to Michael some more. She was through with that. She had only been confusing him and confusing herself.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“So I take it that you don’t want him there.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well,” Isabel Adams explained on the other end of the phone, “I’ve been sitting here listening to you complain about him for fifteen minutes straight. That’s a pretty clear indication.”

“Well, you’re right. I don’t want him here. At least I don’t think I do.”

“What do you mean?”

Maria sighed. The more she talked, the more she kept confusing herself. Now she wasn’t even sure if having Michael in Long Beach living with her and her family was such a bad thing after all. “I mean, he’s weird. He’s really weird, Isabel. He was in jail and everything. Twice, I think. But he kinda understands me, and, I hate to say it, but I think I can kinda relate to him.”

Isabel laughed a little. “You can relate to somebody who’s been in jail.”

“Yeah, crazy, huh? But think about it. He’s an outsider. I feel like an outsider sometimes in my own home.”

“Your dad’s still bugging you about the driving stuff, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. And the acting thing and everything else. He and my mom have really been getting on my nerves today. It could be nice to have somebody else around, you know. Somebody besides my parents.”

“Definitely,” Isabel agreed. “Maria, you don’t even know Michael yet. He’s hardly been there a day. Who knows? You guys might actually end up being friends.”

Friends? Friends? It was a strange concept, but still conceivable and slightly welcomed. “Maybe,” Maria said, “but I don’t even know if he’s interested in being my friend anymore.”

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“Trust me, I’ve been a real bitch since yesterday. I haven’t done anything to make him feel welcome here. He probably already hates me.”

“Probably does. But it’s never too late to try.”

Maria thought about it. “You’re right, Isabel,” she finally said. “I should make a peace offering tonight. I don’t know what exactly me peace offering will be, but I’ll make one. Maybe we won’t end up hating each other after all.”

“Sounds like a good idea to me.”

“Yeah. Yeah, and you know, you’ll see him in school on Monday, too, so you can tell me what you think of him. If you think he’s a lost cause, just tell me and I’ll reconsider.”

“I’m sure I won’t think he’s a lost cause.”

“But if you think he’s an okay guy, then I would like to know . . . ‘cause that’s what I’m starting to think. God, what is wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you, Maria. Look, I have to go. Alex and I are going out tonight. Peace offering, remember?”

“Got it.”

“All right. Bye.”

“Bye.” Maria hung up the phone and got up off the bed. She pulled her hair back in a quick ponytail and then headed downstairs, smelling spaghetti. (If they didn’t have barbecued beef sandwiches, they had spaghetti. It was like an unbreakable tradition. Hopefully they would have something else someday, since Michael would be staying at least for a few weeks.)

“Well, I looked at the car this afternoon,” Amy started in immediately when she sat down. “That’s quite a little dent.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that,” Maria apologized quietly. She hated apologizing when she knew that it wouldn’t have happened if one her parents had actually taken the time to teach her instead of just expecting her to be perfect at it.

“It’s fixable,” Amy said.

“I was thinking about that whole ordeal today,” Jim said, setting his fork down and concentrating solely on Maria. “Honey, I think it would be a good idea if you took a break from driving for awhile.”

She couldn’t help but keep the surprise off of her face. It didn’t make sense. “Why would I take a break?” she asked him. “I need to practice driving to get better.”

“I agree with that,” Jim said, “but I think that we need to spend some more time looking over the driving book.”

“Dad, I’ve read that book so many times that I could write it. Word for word, practically!”

“Still, I think that---”

“Why don’t you want me to drive?” she asked, cutting him off. “Honestly, why don’t you?”

“Honestly? I don’t feel safe in the car with you. I’m sorry, but I don’t.”

She was outraged. She wanted to scream at him to teach her, to take some time out of his stupid Hollywood life to teach her how to drive a car! “Maybe I don’t always feel safe in the car with you!” she replied. It was stupid, yes, but it was all she could think of to say.

“You don’t feel safe in the car with me?”

“Not always!”

“I have to agree with that,” Amy put in. “Sometimes on the Interstate, Jim . . .”

“See!” Maria exclaimed. “It’s a natural thing not to feel safe!”

Her father seemed to be growing slightly agitated quickly. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I don’t want to drive with you right now.”

Maria looked to her mother, but got the same response. “I’m sorry, honey,” she said, “but I think I’m going to agree with your father on this one.”

What else is new? Maria thought.

“No driving with your friends, either,” Jim added finally.

Maria sighed and sank back in her chair. “Fine,” she agreed reluctantly, “but you’ll both be kicking yourselves one day when I’m in college and I have to ride the bus to get around everywhere, and one day I get on the bus and the bus driver isn’t who he appears to be and he stops the bus in a deserted part of town and he rapes me.”

Michael chuckled slightly, and when he noticed that no one else was, he stopped abruptly.

Dinner was relatively quiet the rest of the way through. Amy gave Michael his class schedule, which she had received in an email from the principal. She said that it was similar to schedule back in Roswell with a few exceptions. After that, she asked both Maria and Michael what they had talked about earlier. “Oh, you know,” Maria replied. “Psychology.” Amy gave her a confused look and then returned to eating her meal.

“Would you mind if I watch TV?” Michael asked when he was done eating.

“Michael, you don’t have to ask. Just go ahead,” Amy told him.

With a slightly embarrassed smile, he rose to his feet and made his way into the living room. He sat down in front of the big-screen TV and started flipping channels until he settled on one.

“Maria, if you’re done, why don’t you help me with the dishes,” Amy suggested, taking her plate and Jim’s plate and some other dishes from the table. Maria took her own plate and Michael’s plate and some other dishes and joined her mother in the kitchen. “You know, I still say we have enough money to pay someone to do this for us, or at least use the dishwasher,” she commented as she began to dry the dishes.

“I know, but doing this gives me a strange sense of satisfaction.”

“Really? That’s funny, ‘cause it gives me a strange sense of I’d-rather-be-doing-something-else.”

“Of course it does, but a part of me actually likes doing this. A part of me is still the Amy I was before I met your father, when I washed dishes so hard that my hands would ache.”

“Sounds pleasant.”

When she was done helping her mother with the dishes, Maria remembered that she still hadn’t given Michael her peace offering, and she wasn’t even sure what her offering was going to be yet. She didn’t know how to just go up and say that she was reconsidering the way that she had been acting towards him. It would feel weird.

She went into the living room and saw that he was watching Will and Grace, and the perfect, simple idea for a peace offering came to her. She sat down beside him on the couch and made herself comfortable. “I like Will and Grace,” she said quietly. “I think it’s funny.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Who’s your favorite character?”

“I like Jack. ‘Cause he’s a dancer. Who do you like?”

“I think I like Grace,” he answered, “‘cause she’s hot.”

“Typical male,” she muttered.

They were quiet throughout the majority of the rest of the episode, and Maria never came out and told Michael that this was her way of a peace offering, but he seemed to understand that it was, regardless.








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Post by April » Mon Nov 08, 2004 7:47 am

Michael was already eating breakfast with Amy when Maria got up the next morning. She walked downstairs in her pink pajamas and fuzzy slippers and immediately asked, “Where’s Dad?”

“He had to go shoot today.”

“Of course.”

“Sit down and have some breakfast. I made waffles.”

“Gross,” she muttered as she sat down at the table.

“You could be a little more appreciative,” Amy told her.

“Well, you know how I hate waffles.”

“But you like pancakes. They’re basically the same thing.”

“But pancakes aren’t square,” Maria said as her mother placed a small plate in front of her, “and they don’t have these little indents.”

Amy sighed. “Honestly, Maria . . .”

“Relax, Mom,” Maria cut in. “I’ll eat waffles. They’re fine.”

Amy was looking tired and stressed out, and Maria seemed to notice right away. Even Michael noticed it. It was obvious to even the casual observer.

“Are you okay?” Maria asked her mother. “You look stressed.”

“I am,” Amy said. “I have so many errands to run this morning. I have to go to the market. I have to go see if that dent can be fixed in the car. I have to buy a dress for Jim’s appearance next Saturday.”

“Again, I still say that we could pay somebody to do that all for you.”

“Again, I still say that I like to do it myself.” She grabbed her purse off of the kitchen table and then said, “Okay, I’m heading out. I trust that I can leave you two here alone. You won’t rip each other’s heads off, will you?”

“No, we won’t. At least I won’t.” She turned to Michael and asked, “You won’t, will you?”

“Wasn’t planning on it.”

“Okay,” Amy said. “I’ll be back whenever. Have fun.”

The minute, she left, Maria took her plate of waffles and dumped them in the trash. She opened up the refrigerator, then, to reveal barely anything. “Wow,” she commented, “she really does need to go to the market.” She sat down at the table again just as Michael was finishing up with his breakfast. They were quiet for a short time until she asked him a question. “Why did you come here?”

He was surprised by her question. He hadn’t expected it.

“I’m not trying to be rude,” she said, “but I guess I’ve been rude since you’ve gotten here.”

“Why did I come here?” he repeated. “Well, you know, I was in jail. I was into some pretty bad shit. And I wanted to get away from my friends, too. Tess and Josh. They got me started makin’ trouble in the first place.”

“They got you started?” she echoed in question. “So you weren’t just born a badass?”

“No,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I was . . . I was a loner for a long time, Maria.”

“So you were a nerd?”

“How did you guess?”

“It’s kinda common sense. I put two and two together. It fit. Okay, so you were a nerd, then Tess and Josh got you started . . . what? Doing drugs?”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s why I went to jail when I was a Freshman. I got caught with drugs in my locker. Spent a night in jail.”

“Did you have to do community service?” Maria asked him.

“No. I had to go to a counselor, but she didn’t help.”

“Do you have to do community service for vandalizing the gym?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you done it yet?”

“No.”

She seemed confused. “Do you mean that Roswell actually let you come here without fulfilling your sentence?”

“Pretty much. I don’t know how it all went down. This woman, Sheila, arranged it all for me.”

“I don’t get it. Isn’t the point of community service to serve your community?”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought, but I wasn’t gonna mention that.”

“Smart move. Okay, so I think I understand why you came here now. But this is what I don’t understand: Why is there so much bad stuff going on in Roswell? Isn’t it like a small town or something?”

“Yeah, it’s a small town,” he said, “but there’s some bad shit goin’ on there.”

“Bad shit in the Roswell ‘hood. What up, dog?”

Michael couldn’t help but smile. She was so . . . different than anyone he had ever met before. So different. And he had hated her at first, to a degree, only because she had hated him, but now that she was dropping the Ice Queen act, he hated her less and less. In fact, he didn’t even hate her at all now.

“So what about you?” he asked her.

“What do you mean?”

“Why do you let your parents push you around like they do?” He immediately regretted his word choice. “I mean, why do you let them tell you what to do?”

“I don’t exactly have a choice.”

“But you do. Look, Amy and Jim seem really nice and it’s obvious that they do care about you, but they’re kinda . . .”

“Inconsiderate,” she filled in. “They don’t let me decide anything for myself. They try to make all my choices and decisions for me. And what’s sad is that they don’t even realize that they’re doing it.”

“I realize it. The whole driving thing makes it pretty obvious.”

“Yeah, I hate it when they get on me about my driving. I mean, I know I’m not the best driver in the world, but I could have been if somebody would have bothered to teach me. The first time I got behind the wheel, they just expected me to know how to do it all, and no matter how many times I read that driving book, I still don’t know how to do it all.” She sighed and hung her head a little. “And every time I fail the driving test or put a dent in the car my dad finds some new and improved way to make me feel . . .” She hesitated. “Stupid.”

For the first time, Michael really felt sorry for her. He had observed the interaction between his stepsister and her parents, but he had not realized that it made her feel like this. “You’re not stupid,” he told her.

“How would you know?”

“I know.”

She looked at him for a few moments, and then she got up. “Well, that was deep,” she said. “I think I’m gonna go get ready.” She started back through the kitchen and up to her room, but she paused on the stairway. “Thank you, Michael,” she said quietly.

“For what?”

“For making me feel a little better.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The next morning was stressful for Maria, as most mornings were. Getting ready for school could be such a challenge sometimes. People expected her to be dressed in the hottest new outfits every day, and sometimes it was hard to keep up with the demand. She had to make sure that she didn’t mismatch anything, or she would be hearing about it for years to come, and if even one hair was out of place, the whole school would be talking.

People noticed Maria, and she knew they noticed her. That was why she spent half an hour deciding what to wear. Mondays were particularly important, also. Monday was the day that set the standard for the rest of the week.

The morning was extremely stressful, but she ended up putting together an outfit that she really liked. She wore a red spaghetti strap that showed her stomach just slightly and a form fitting white skirt. She decided on some tall white flip flop sandals, and she put her hair up in a messy bun to show her back. It was a simple outfit, but she knew that people would like it, especially the guys.

When she went downstairs, she was surprised to find that her mom was not waiting at the door for her. Usually Amy was standing at the door impatiently, waiting for her daughter to get ready so she could take her to school. Today, she wasn’t. Today, the only person downstairs was Michael.

“Is my mom up?” she asked him.

He shrugged. “I don’t think so. Come on. Let’s go.” He started out the door.

“Wait a minute,” Maria said. “You’re driving?”

“Yeah. Is that so hard to believe?”

“No, I just didn’t think that my parents would let you.”

Michael opened the driver’s side door to the Taurus with the dent in it and got in. “Amy did take me out driving for half an hour last night so she could inspect my methods or whatever.”

“Did you pass?” she asked him, closing the passenger’s side door.

“With flying colors,” he answered with a cheesy grin. “Now tell me where to go.”

“It’s not too far,” she told him as he backed out of the driveway. “You can’t really miss it. It’s a big school.”

Within fifteen minutes, they had made it to school. Maria couldn’t help but notice the expression on Michael’s face as he surveyed the giant building. “How much bigger is it than your old school?” she asked him.

“If it tells you anything,” he replied, “my old school’s about as big as the parking lot.”

“Roswell ‘hood has a pretty small school, huh?”

“Got that right.”

When they stepped inside, Michael’s amazement only grew. “How the hell do you find your way around this place?” he asked, glancing up and down and all around.

“You get used to it. Kinda like my house.” Maria started up the stairs to her locker on the second floor. She passed Kyle VaLenti on her way, and he made a sexual gesture as he walked by. That was typical of Kyle. He always found some way to let her know that he wanted to get in her pants.

“You’re supposed to check in with the office,” Maria told Michael as she found her locker and started turning the lock to get it open, “but from what I’ve heard, it’s a complete waste of time. So don’t do it.”

“Yeah, okay. Um, where’s locker 2570?”

“Oh,” Maria said. “Fourth floor.”

“There’s a fourth floor?”

She nodded, grabbing a book from her locker before slamming it shut. “My friend Isabel has the fourth floor,” she told him, heading back up the stairs with him. “One day she wore these, like, stiletto heals, and she was late for class, so she goes running up the stairs and she fell flat on her face and broke her ankle. So good luck with the fourth floor.”

“I don’t think I have to worry,” he said. “I don’t plan on wearing stiletto heals.”

“And, you know, that’s good, ‘cause you would never live it down in this school. Trust me. I know. I mismatched my socks one day my Freshman year and everybody’s still talking about it.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They stopped at locker number 2570 on the fourth floor, and Michael tried his combination. It didn’t work, so Maria showed him how to put it in. It was so complicated. You had to turn the lock so many times to the right and then so many times to the left and then back again. She said it was for security reasons.

“Hey, Maria,” a girl’s voice said. Michael looked up and saw a tall, shapely blonde wearing a shirt that said cheer striding towards them.

“Isabel! Hey, this is Michael, my stepbrother.”

“Hey,” Isabel said with a warm smile. “Looks like you got stuck with the fourth floor, too.”

“Yeah,” Michael said. “Maria told me your story about the stilettos.”

Isabel gave Maria a look. “You bitch,” she muttered with a joking smile. “That was supposed to be private.”

“Isabel, everybody knows about it.”

“Yeah, well everybody knows about your sock fiasco during Freshman year.”

Maria looked at Michael. “See?” she said. “I told you everybody’s still talking about it.”

“Hey guys.” A small, slightly nerd-like guy came up behind Isabel and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close to him. “Hey baby,” he whispered in Isabel’s ear, kissing her cheek.

“Michael, this is Alex. Alex, this is Michael. He’s my stepbrother.” Maria introduced.

“Hey,” Alex said with a nod.

“Hey.”

Alex entwined his and Isabel’s hands and bent down to kiss her cheek again. “I love you so much,” he murmured.

“I love you, too,” Isabel murmured in reply.

“Don’t even pay any attention to them,” Maria told him. “They have this tendency to make people nauseous.”

“Sorry, we don’t mean to gross you out on your first day,” Isabel apologized.

“That’s okay,” Michael told her. He found his attention drifting to the huge diamond ring on Isabel’s left ring finger, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

“In case you’re wondering,” Isabel said, noticing the way he was eyeing the ring, “we’re getting married after graduation.” She held the ring up for him to see better.

“They’re hopeless romantics,” Maria explained. “They said that they were going to get married after graduation back when we were in sixth grade, and now they’re actually gonna go ahead and do it.”

All at once, a guy came up behind Maria and wrapped his arms around her waist similar to the way Alex had with Isabel. Maria tensed at first, but then she relaxed as he started to kiss her shoulder.

“Michael, this is Max Evans,” Maria said in reference to the guy behind her, “my boyfriend.”

“Hey, Max,” Michael greeted. Max didn’t even look up to say hello.

“He’s Maria’s stepbrother,” Isabel piped up. Max still only kept kissing Maria’s shoulder.

“Max,” Maria finally said, pulling away slightly. “I’m introducing you to my stepbrother.”

“Yeah,” Max said. “I saw him.” Without saying hello, he rested his head on Maria’s shoulder.

“So these are my close friends,” Maria told Michael. She was about to say more, but a female voice cut her off.

“Hi guys!” A short, thin brunette came bouncing down the hallway, waving to them with a huge smile on her childish face.

“And then there’s Liz,” Maria said. “We only put up with her ‘cause she’s Max’s sister.”

“What’s up guys?” Liz asked joining the group. “What’s goin’ on?” All of a sudden, her eyes met Michael. “Who’s this?” she asked with interest.

“My stepbrother, Michael.” Maria told her. She didn’t bother to elaborate for Liz Evans.

“Hi, Michael,” Liz said, extending her hand. She tried to bat her eyelashes, but she didn’t seem to know how. “I’m Liz Evans. It’s nice to meet you.”

Michael shook her hand, unsure, and tried to forget the way she was looking at him.

The bell rang, and the group all scattered in different directions. Liz and Isabel started off down the hallway, and although she was probably trying to be quiet, Michael could hear Liz say, “He’s cute, don’t you think?” Great . . .

“What class do you have?” Maria asked him. He took his folded schedule out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Trigonometry,” she observed.

“Where’s that?” he asked.

“First floor.” She started off back down the stairs, and he followed her. “I think I’m gonna be the StairMaster by the time I leave this place,” he commented.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”







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Post by April » Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:53 am

........................




For the first time in four years, Michael found that he was paying attention in class. It was strange. It felt weird to actually be trying to learn something. He wished he could see the expression on Tess’s and Josh’s faces if they knew that he was actually paying attention to trigonometrical ratios and the like.

Even though the teachers of Hamilton High were slightly more interesting than the teachers of Roswell High, Michael still found that he was trying to make it through the first four periods so that he could get to lunch and trying to get through the last four so that he could get out for the day. Even though the food served in the cafeteria was marginally better, it still failed to meet the desired mark of acceptable. Even though the other students and teachers did not know him, they all seemed to know that he had been in jail.

When the last bell actually did ring, Michael could not wait to get home. He hurried up numerous flights of stairs to his fourth floor locker and struggled with the tricky locker combination for several minutes until someone came to help him.

Until Liz Evans came to help him.

“These lockers are complex things,” she told him, turning the lock slowly. “It took me forever to learn how to get mine open.”

“I’m sure it did.”

She opened his locker and looked up at him with a cheesy smile on her face. “I can open it for you any time.” With that, she turned and made her way down the stairs, trying desperately to shake her hips and fling her hair as she went.

Pushing all thoughts of that clueless girl out of his head, Michael tried to remember what homework he had. Homework. That was something he had rarely thought about for quite some time. The word was almost foreign.

“You have trig,” a familiar voice said. “Page 108, problems 1-26.”

Michael looked up to see Maria leaning against the locker next to his. “Were you waiting out at the car?” he asked her.

“Yeah, for a little while.”

“Sorry. I had trouble getting my locker open.”

“No problem. Oh, you should also have the chapter review for anatomy unless you have it done already.”

“I don’t. Is there anything else?”

“I don’t think so. Let’s get home. I have to have that dance made up by Wednesday and I’m barely halfway done.”

When they were out in the parking lot, Maria asked, “So what do you think of Hamilton High?”

“Well, it’s big,” he answered.

“That’s pretty much a given.”

“The bathrooms are clean, the books aren’t so dated, but the food could be better.”

“Oh, I agree!” she exclaimed. “I mean, hotdog surprise? What the hell is that?”

He laughed a little. “Overall, I’d say it’s pretty nice.”

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be one of the nicest schools in the Long Beach area,” she explained. “Better than those crummy private schools you hear about. So, anyway, you like the school okay it seems. Do you like the people?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Some of ‘em, I guess. I don’t really know anybody. But they all seem to know me. Lots of people came up and asked me if I was really in jail.”

“Yeah, I remember that I did that the first day you got here.”

He remembered, too. It was hard to forget the fierce, eye-rolling girl who had sat in the back seat with him when leaving the airport.

“You’re not the only one in this school who’s been in jail,” she continued. “I bet at least a quarter of the student body has.”

“Have you?”

“No. My dad would kill me if I ever went to jail. It’s not good for his reputation, you know.”

They got in the car, and when they were heading out of the parking lot, Maria asked, “So what do you think of my friends?”

“They’re nice,” he replied. He knew he was using the word nice to describe too much, but it would have to do. “I really like Alex and Isabel,” he said. “I sat with them during my lunch shift and they actually refrained from making me gag.”

“Well, that’s always good. Like I said, they kinda have that tendency, but once you get past that, they’re really cool. So, what about Max? Do you like Max?”

Michael wasn’t sure how to answer. Max Evans was Maria’s boyfriend. They walked down the hallway hand in hand during passing periods. He gave her massages in the class where he sat behind her. He felt like he was supposed to lie to her and tell her that he did like Max, so he did just that.

“Yeah,” he answered, “I like Max.”

Maria shook her head right away. “You’re lying. Nobody likes Max when they first meet him. Even I didn’t.”

“Okay,” he said, “I guess I’m really not so sure that I like Max.”

“Once you get to know him, though, he’s nice and he’s funny, and you’ll probably end up being good friends with him.”

“Yeah, probably.” At this point, he didn’t see that happening.

“What do you think of his sister?”

“Liz?”

She nodded.

“Oh God, don’t even get me started.”

Maria started to laugh. “Oh, you should have heard her today. Every class that I had with her, she would just sit there and talk about you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious. She just kept telling me how lucky I am to live in the same house as you. She even said that if she lived in the same house as you, she would walk around naked.”

“What?”

She laughed some more. “Isn’t that sick? She’s like a twelve-year-old boy! Can you imagine her naked?”

“No!” he exclaimed. “No, I can’t, and I don’t want to!”

“She also said that she wanted you to be her first.”

“WHAT?” he shrieked. “WHAT?”

She laughed harder. “Oh God, you should’ve heard her, Michael. She said that she wants to lose her virginity to you. That’s exactly what she said.”

“She doesn’t even know me!”

“Apparently she doesn’t need to.”

Even Michael found himself laughing now. He hated the fact that Liz wanted him like this, but there was a certain aspect to it all that was very comical.

“She’s so weird,” Maria said through laughs. “She’s like this total loser, and she thinks she’s in love with you.”

“I had a feeling she was,” he said. “Every time she passed me in the hallway, she started winking at me or something. And when I couldn’t get my locker open just now, she came up and opened it for me. Is that her way of flirting with me?”

“I guess so.” Maria continued to laugh. “That’s funny, Michael, but you know what’s even funnier? She’s a science nerd, okay. She wants to be a molecular biologist or something like that. Anyway, she always tells these science jokes and she thinks they’re so funny, but nobody else understands what she’s talking about, so she’s always the only one laughing, but the rest of us just kinda stand there, you know.”

Michael laughed. He could imagine Liz doing something like that. “Is she retarded?” he joked.

“I’m starting to think that she might be! I’ve gotta get her to tell you one of her science jokes sometime, Michael. It’s hilarious. Not the joke, you know, but her idiocy.”

They laughed about Liz Evans the rest of the way home, and for the first time since Michael had arrived in California, he felt like he was with a good friend.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After working on her dance for three hours straight that night, Maria came upstairs feeling tired and sweaty and wanting nothing more than to collapse on the couch for the night, but she still had homework to do.

“Did you get the dance made up?” Amy asked her.

Maria nodded, out of breath.

“That’s good. So, how was school today?”

“School was . . . well, school. But I actually had an okay day today.”

“It’s a miracle!” Amy exclaimed with a smile. “I never thought there would be a day when you didn’t come home and tell me that something had gone wrong.”

“Yeah,” Maria said, “but I do have some homework.”

“What are you learning about? Maybe I can help.”

“Trigonometrical ratios,” she replied, struggling to pronounce the word.

Amy looked lost. “What are those?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I just know we’re learning about them.”

Amy sighed. “Well, that’s not good.”

“No,” Maria agreed, grabbing a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “It definitely isn’t.” She started heading up the stairs. “I’m gonna take a shower and then get to work.”

The water felt good running over her sweaty skin. It was so comforting, in fact, that she thought for a minute that she was going to fall asleep in the shower, but she didn’t. When she got out, she ran a comb through her hair and slipped into her pink pajamas. She got her books out of her room and made her way down the hallway to Michael’s room. She heard the TV going from inside, and she felt kind of bad for ruining his fun with homework.

“Come in,” he said when she knocked on the door.

She stepped inside and held both her anatomy and trigonometry books in front of her. “I brought friends,” she said.

“Great,” he muttered, shutting off the TV. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve done homework?”

“Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve done homework?” she asked him in return, making herself comfortable on the bed with her books in front of her. “Usually I just try to copy someone else’s but no one smart had this stuff done.”

“Usually I just fail.”

“Well, that works, too, but I think I’ll just stick with the copying option.”

Before she could get started, the phone rang. She reached over and picked it up, knowing that it would probably be Max or Isabel or some obsessed fan searching for her father. “Hello?”

“Maria, it’s me.” It was Max’s voice, that was for sure. Max had a recognizable voice. It was deep and just a little bit scary at times.

“Hey, Max. I’m glad you called because I wanted to know if you were still gonna take me shopping on Saturday.”

“Oh.” Max didn’t seem like he had any idea what she was talking about. “Was I planning on taking you shopping?”

“Yeah, remember we talked about it.” She wasn’t surprised that he didn’t remember. Max didn’t remember a lot of things. He had forgotten their one month anniversary. “I was gonna see if Isabel and Alex wanted to come, too.”

“Why do you need to go shopping?” he asked.

“To buy things,” she said, stating the obvious. “Especially a new binkini. My others are all so out of style now. I’ve got this one kinda tan one, and it blends in with my skin. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it.”

“The tan one? I picked that one out for you.”

Me and my big mouth, she thought after he spoke. “Oh, well . . . it must have faded.”

“It looks good on you,” he told her. “You should see the way your ass looks in it.”

“So you’ve been looking at my ass?” This got a questionable look from Michael.

“Hell, yeah. I like that one. You should keep it.”

“But it blends in with my skin,” she insisted. “I really need a new one.”

“Then go with Alex and Isabel.”

“I need you to go with me, though. I need you to tell me which ones my ass looks good in and which ones it doesn’t.” Another look from Michael.

Max chuckled. “Okay, I guess I better go with you then. Saturday, right?”

“Saturday.” There was a bit of an awkward silence between them, and then Maria remembered that she had not been the one to call. “So why did you call here anyway?” she asked him. “Not that I mind. I’m just wondering.”

“Actually I wanted to let you know that I’m having a party tomorrow night. I just found out my parents are gonna be out of town for the next few nights, so . . .”

“So can I assume that I’m invited?”

“I’d say that’s a pretty good assumption. You know what else I was thinking, Maria? Maybe one of those nights that they’re gone, you could come over and we could . . . you know.”

She felt herself freeze up. She didn’t know how to talk about sex with Max. She didn’t know how to tell him that she wasn’t ready to have sex with him because she had never had sex with anybody before, and it was especially hard with her stepbrother sitting on the bed right beside her.

“Oh, yeah, um . . . you know, I actually think I have practice after school Wednesday and Thursday, and then the game’s Friday, so I think I’m kinda busy these next few days.”

“Oh.” He sounded disappointed. “Okay. Well, if practice gets canceled, come on over.”

“Okay,” she said, suddenly eager to get off the phone. “I’ll talk to you later, Max.” She hung up the phone, relieved that she wouldn’t have to elaborate on the subject anymore. Max had been hinting at what he wanted for a short time now, and she was starting to feel pressured to just give it to him, but that was easier said than done.

“That sounded like an interesting conversation,” Michael observed. “Lots of talk about your ass.”

“Max likes to talk about that.”

“What are you invited to?” he asked. “I wasn’t listening. I just kinda heard that you were invited to something.”

“A party,” she told him. “Max is having a party tomorrow night while his parents are away. Are you interested in going?”

“I don’t think I was invited.”

“Michael Guerin, you have really not lived here for long, have you? Now, maybe they do things differently in New Mexico, but here in California the invited person always brings another person to the party. Besides, I’m sure you’re invited.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“It’s Max’s party.”

“But, Max doesn’t even know me. And we’re not friends.”

“Yet,” Maria reminded him. “It’s only a matter of time. By the time the party’s over tomorrow night—or Wednesday morning, depending on the way you wanna look at it—you and Max are probably going to be best buds.”

A sarcastic expression came across Michael’s face. “Yeah, probably.”





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Post by April » Wed Nov 10, 2004 6:41 pm

..........................



Music could be heard three blocks away the next night coming from the Evans’s house. Michael had a feeling that they would be receiving several calls to turn it down, but he had a feeling that no one would agree to the request. If the cops didn’t end up crashing this party by 2:00 a.m., it would be the surprise of the century.

Maria and Isabel both started dancing in the car. They started to shake the car so much that Michael thought he might have trouble keeping it on the road.

“Max’s parties are always the best,” Isabel told Michael, getting out of the car when they were within a short distance of the Evans’s. “You’re gonna have so much fun tonight.”

Somehow, Michael doubted that. He had never been one for partying. He had always preferred to just kick back with Tess and Josh, but Tess had always managed to drag him out to the club scene anyway.

Before they were even in the door, some guy stopped Maria. “You look so fine,” he said, slapping her ass. Looking as annoyed as ever, Maria turned to face him. “Kyle,” she said, “the stalker routine is really getting old. And it’s not really a turn-on.”

Rejected, he left. “Who was that?” Michael asked her as they made their way up the sidewalk.

“Kyle VaLenti,” she answered. “He’s been doing stuff like that since fourth grade.” Before she could elaborate, Max came to the door, holding a beer in his hand. “Maria!” he shouted in an excited tone. “Isabel! Alex!” His excitement level seemed to drop when he noticed who else was there. “Michael.”

Maria hurried up the steps and kissed Max, then took the beer out of his hand, taking a sip. “You got some good music?” she asked him.

“Hell yeah!” he shouted. “Come join the festivities, baby!” He put his arm around her shoulder and led her into the expansive house.

When Michael got inside, Isabel and Alex were already grinding to the music, and Maria was hanging with Max and a group of his friends. He looked around for anyone he knew, anyone who might feel like talking to him, but he didn’t see anyone. A few girls he didn’t even know came up to him and wanted to dance, so he did for awhile, but they seemed to grow bored with him and move onto others rather quickly.

After about a half an hour of standing around looking like an idiot wishing that he knew some people, he found an empty place on the couch and sat down next to a brunette. He didn’t realize until it was too late that he had sat down next to Liz.

“Hi, Michael!” she said with a huge smile. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”

“I didn’t, either.”

“I didn’t even know Max was going to throw a party until this morning!” she continued, shouting over the music. “He told me while I was in the shower! Naked in the shower!”

“Okay,” Michael said, trying to move farther away from Liz unsuccessfully. “That’s enough information.”

Liz continued to talk to him about pointless, useless stuff. She talked about how she could speak fluent Spanish and how she could put both her legs behind her head. (She said that she was sure that special ability could come in handy during sex, and that about made him puke.) She started telling her science jokes after that, and Michael completely tuned her out. He looked out into the other room and saw that a circle had formed around Isabel and Maria and they were breaking it down to everyone’s delight. From what he could see, it was really quite impressive, and he could tell that Max and Alex and all of the other guys at the party thought that it was impressive, too.

“Isn’t Maria pretty?” Liz said.

“Yeah, she is,” Michael agreed. He could see why Max and Kyle and probably every other guy liked her. He just hoped that they liked her for more than just her looks. She deserved that.

“Am I as pretty as she is?”

Michael couldn’t help but give Liz a disbelieving look. If she thought for one second that she was anywhere near as pretty as Maria was, she was looking in one hell of a distorted mirror. He got up without one more word, ignoring her requests to stay, and he found a dark corner a safe distance away from the obsessive girl.

After an hour of sitting alone, Michael finally saw Maria making her way over towards him and away from everybody else. “You’re a good dancer,” he told her as she sat down.

“And you’re a good brooder. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” he answered. “I just don’t really know anybody here.”

“I don’t know half the people here,” she said. “That’s part of the invited-person-brings-a-friend custom. You end up at a party with a lot of complete strangers.”

“At least you know some people.”

“You could still get out there and have some fun,” she said. “You could hang out with me. Or you could hang out with Alex and Isabel . . . if they’re not upstairs, which they might be. They do that a lot.”

“I’m fine just sitting on my couch.”

“Okay,” she said, standing up. “You want a drink?”

“Uh, no thanks,” he replied. “I don’t drink.”

“You don’t?” she questioned, sitting back down again.

“You seem so surprised.”

“No, it’s not that I thought you did. I just . . . well, yeah, I guess I did think you did. But that’s only ‘cause you told me you did a lot of bad stuff and got in trouble. I guess I just kinda thought . . .”

“It’s okay, Maria,” he said, sensing that she was trying to apologize. “I probably would if it wasn’t for my dad.”

“Your dad?” she echoed in confusion. “Did he not want you to drink?”

Michael almost laughed at the sentence. “He didn’t care what I did,” he said, “but he was drunk all the time. Just all the time. He was a complete waste of space. I saw what it did to him so I just decided to stay away from it.” He stopped himself after he realized that he was opening up to her about a subject he never talked about. Ever.

His short story seemed to start her thinking, and when Max came up to her with another beer in his hand, she didn’t jump up and kiss him this time.

“You want another one?” he asked her in reference to the beer.

She looked at Michael for a long time and then back at Max. “I don’t think so,” she said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Thanks anyway.”

He shrugged, confused, and left, heading back out to join his friends.

“I’m gonna stay away from it, too,” Maria said, standing up and smoothing her skirt down. “Now come on, Michael. Come dance.”

Reluctantly, he got up off of his couch and joined Maria and her friends.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Saturday arrived, Maria was ecstatic. She needed a new bikini so badly. She could not go on wearing that ugly tan one, even if Max had picked it out, and all of her others were too dark. Even though it would soon be winter time, things always seemed to be bright and sunny in Long Beach, and she needed her new bathing suit to be bright and sunny as well.

From the minute Isabel entered the mall, she was on a path to the wedding shop to take a look at some dresses, jewelry, and tuxedos for Alex. Although Alex seemed less interested than Isabel, he went with her for her delight.

With Isabel and Alex gone, that left Maria with her boyfriend, her stepbrother, and her not-friend. Max kept insisting on stopping at the video store to rent a movie from the “adult section”. Michael seemed about as uninterested in shopping as one could be, and Liz wasn’t capable of doing anything other than making googly eyes at Michael. Maria wished Isabel had stayed. It would have been nice to have her opinion on bathing suits, but Michael and Max would just have to do.

After stopping to pick up a few miscellaneous shirts, pants, and other accessories on the way, they finally stopped at a store where Maria was sure she could find the perfect bikini.

“I still think you should just stick with the tan one,” Max said as she looked through racks of bathing suits. “I told you how your ass looks in it.”

“Yeah, you’ve told me several times,” she said. “I just need a new one.”

Max let out a sigh. “Well, hurry up. Okay?”

His impatience caused her annoyance, but she tried not to let on.

When Maria had two swimming suits that she really liked—a baby blue bikini and a pink bikini—she went into the dressing room to try them on. Max offered to join her in the room and help her undress, but she didn’t find his joke funny.

“Do you like this one?” she asked both Max and Michael as she exited the dressing room in the baby blue. “Is it too tight?”

“No such thing,” Max said, shifting in his seat uncomfortably. A part of Maria liked the effect her appearance had on him. Another part was frightened by it.

“Do you like it, Michael?”

Michael didn’t seem to expect that she would ask for his opinion, so when she did, he seemed rather surprised. “It’s nice,” he said.

“Blue’s not your best color,” Liz piped up.

Maria gave her an icy glare. “Just shut up!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry,” Liz grumbled. “I was just saying . . .”

“Liz, what would your best color be?” Max asked his sister. “Puce?”

“I don’t know,” Liz said. “Maybe I should try something on and let Michael tell me.”

Maria glanced over at her horrified stepbrother. He looked like he was about to puke at the thought of it.

When Maria went back in and came back out in the pink bathing suit, she found that she was really in a bind. She really needed Isabel here now. She liked each of them so much, and this was actually a really difficult decision. She couldn’t pick the wrong bathing suit and risk that everyone would be talking about it for years to come, just like her sock fiasco in ninth grade.

“I think you should go with the blue,” Max said immediately. “It fits your body better.”

“Well, actually, this one’s more comfortable,” Maria told him.

“Yeah, but it’s not as tight. You should go with the blue.”

She didn’t know if she wanted to go with the blue, so she found herself looking at Michael for his opinion.

“I like the pink,” he said quietly.

“No,” Max said, shaking his head. “Don’t go with the pink. Go with the blue.”

“Personally, I don’t think pink is your best color, either,” Liz mumbled from the corner. Maria ignored her and looked back at Michael again, and then at Max. She felt like she should agree with her boyfriend, but she couldn’t help agreeing more with her stepbrother.

“Blue,” Max said again, decidedly.

Maria glanced at herself in the mirror, and she knew that she had made her mind up long before now. “I’m gonna go with the pink,” she said. She headed back into the dressing room before she could see the expression on Max’s face.




TBC...
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Post by April » Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:16 pm

..................



Life in Long Beach was fun. Whenever Michael wasn’t doing community service projects, he found that he was going to parties with Maria and her friends and to football games with the entire DeLuca family. The school day didn’t seem so long anymore, due to the fact that there were plenty of things to do when school was out. Michael had to admit that he was really enjoying Long Beach, and he wasn’t looking to leave anytime soon. He only hoped that Amy and Jim would keep him around for awhile. He had been there for over a week already, and he wanted to remain there longer.

“Go! Go! Yes! Touchdown!” Jim was shouting as he watched a football game Tuesday night. “Yes!” he exclaimed, pumping his fist against his chest as he sat back down in the stands. “This game’s gonna send us to the playoffs.”

Amy seemed more skeptical. “I don’t know. The Ravens are playing good tonight, too. It’s a really close game.”

Michael glanced at the scoreboard and noticed how close it was. It was a tie-game near the end of the second quarter.

“We’re gonna win,” Jim shouted, clearly getting into the game. “We’re gonna win, we’re gonna win, we’re gonna WIN!”

“Calm down,” Amy said, covering her face in embarrassment at her husband’s outburst. “No need to draw attention.”

But the attention had already been drawn. Anyone who had not already noticed that Jim DeLuca was in the vicinity rushed towards him waving their hands in excitement, begging for autographs or a hug or something of the kind.

“Great,” Jim muttered. “I can’t go anywhere without being noticed.” He stood up as if he were about to leave.

“Jim, you’ll miss Maria’s dance,” Amy said.

“It’s just a dance,” Jim said, shrugging it off and heading out into the parking lot to spend some time with his fans. Michael watched him go. It was obvious that Maria meant a lot to Jim, but his career obviously meant a lot, too.

“Hey, guys!” Maria squeezed through the bleachers and sat down next to Michael with a smile on her face. The smile fell when she noticed that her father wasn’t there. “Where’s Dad?” she asked.

“He had to leave,” Amy explained. “He didn’t want to, but he had to. The fans.”

Maria’s face fell, but she tried to cover it up right away. “Oh, well,” she said. “It’s not that important.”

Michael could tell that it was important to her.

“Are those your new outfits?” Amy inquired, quickly changing the topic of conversation to something more lighthearted.

“Yeah,” Maria said, showing off a gold top that said Gold Rush, the team’s name, in bold black lettering. “You like it?”

“I love it!” Amy exclaimed.

“I like it, too,” Michael said. “They’re really cool.”

“Thanks,” Maria said, the bright smile returning to her face. “I picked them out myself.” Before she could say more, the announcer signaled the end of the second quarter and the start of halftime. A flood of people hurried up to the concession stand, and even more headed back into the parking lot for Jim DeLuca.

“Oh God, it’s time,” Maria said nervously in reference to her performance. “Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Amy called as her daughter made her way down the steps and out onto the football field with the rest of the Gold Rush team. The minute they started dancing, everyone’s eyes were drawn to the field as they witnessed the exact unison of movement and emotion and the breathtaking performance. They were all excellent, but Michael couldn’t help but watch Maria. In fact, it seemed like everyone in the audience was watching Maria.

Everyone but her father.

Michael glanced back into the parking lot. It was dark and hard to see, but he could tell that Jim DeLuca wasn’t even aware that his daughter was dancing.

When their performance was over, everyone clapped. Some even gave a standing ovation. When Maria returned, she received several words of praise from Isabel and the other cheerleaders, and immediately a long kiss from Max. Michael had to turn away as they kissed. He couldn’t stand the thought of his stepsister being with a creep like Max.

Jim returned midway through the third quarter. Michael thought that he would ask about Maria’s performance, but he didn’t say a word about it. Instead, he spoke of how wonderful it always was to give a treat to his fans and then got right back into the football spirit. “Touchdown!”

Near the end of the game, Michael left the bleachers to buy some food from the concession stand. As he was standing in line, he heard a few guys talking. He couldn’t help but listen in on what they were saying, and he wasn’t happy with what he heard.

“That was a hot dance they did,” one guy was saying.

“Yeah it was,” another agreed. “Who do you think was the hottest?”

“Who else? DeLuca,” came the recognizable voice of Kyle VaLenti. “I swear to God, she makes me explode just lookin’ at her.”

His friends laughed. “Too much information, man!”

“Seriously, if I don’t get with her by the end of the year, I’m gonna make her get with me.”

Michael felt his hands clenching into fists, and he listened as Kyle said goodbye to his friends and headed out into the parking lot. Unable to stop himself, Michael followed.

“What do you want?” Kyle asked impatiently when Michael stopped on the other side of his car.

“What do you mean, you’re gonna make her get with you?” Michael asked. He had a feeling he already knew, but he wanted to hear Kyle say it.

“What the hell are you talkin’ about?” Kyle asked as if he didn’t know.

“You know what I’m talking about. You were just talking about it with your friends.”

Kyle seemed to be growing slightly uncomfortable, but he kept playing dumb. “What’s your deal? Are you high?”

Michael desperately wanted to beat the answers out of the guy, but he couldn’t do that. “Stay away from her,” he warned seriously.

“What’re you gonna do?” Kyle asked in reply. “Hit me?”

If I was back in Roswell, Michael thought, you’d be close to dead by now.

He heard the crowd cheer as the fourth and final quarter came to an end and Hamilton won the game. He decided not to waste any more time with Kyle VaLenti and headed back to join up with the DeLuca family. He caught a glimpse of Maria sitting by Max, and he noticed how small she was. She was strong, of that much he was sure, but she was small, too, and small was only another word for vulnerable.

Somebody had to protect her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria was exhausted when she returned home that night. The game had run later than expected, and she still had a few homework assignments to complete. Luckily, she had gotten the answers from Alex. The guy was practically a genius.

The rest of the family looked just as tired. Amy immediately went upstairs to get ready for bed, and Jim and Michael both made themselves comfortable on the couch to watch the evening news. Maria didn’t want to, but she sat down next to her father and interrupted his news program.

“Dad, I was just wondering---”

“Don’t even ask,” he said, cutting her off. “You’re not going to any party tonight.”

“I wasn’t asking to go to a party,” she told him. “I was just gonna ask you if you saw any of my dance tonight.”

“No, I didn’t,” he replied, never tearing his eyes away from the television.

“Oh.” She didn’t want to sound disappointed, but she knew that she did. “Oh well. It’s not really that big of a deal.” That was a complete lie. It was a huge deal, but her father would never recognize that.

“It’s really kind of pointless,” Jim said, still keeping his eyes locked on the television.

“Pointless?” Maria echoed in disbelief. She couldn’t believe her father had said that. “How could you say it’s pointless? It’s a huge part of my life.”

Her father let out a heavy sigh. For the first time since she had sat down, he turned to look his daughter in the eye. “You’re the one who said it wasn’t that big of a deal,” he reminded her.

“Yeah, but I wasn’t being serious!”

“I’m sorry, Maria,” Jim apologized, “but it’s just a matter of opinion.”

He was gone after that. He wasn’t going to listen to anything she had to say. He was absorbed in the latest war report, and he wasn’t going to break free anytime soon, so she headed upstairs to her bedroom. She changed out of her Gold Rush uniform and into her pink pajamas, making herself comfortable on her bed with her uncompleted and Alex’s very completed homework. Before she could get started, however, she felt a small sob shake her body, and the next things she felt were tears running down her cheeks. She tried to muffle her sounds so that no one would hear her. She didn’t need her mother coming in to comfort her. She didn’t need to hope that her father would come to apologize when she knew very well that he wouldn’t.

All at once, someone knocked on her bedroom door quietly. “Just a minute!” she called back, quickly wiping her tears away. She took a few deep breaths and then glanced at herself in the mirror, hoping that it wouldn’t be too apparent that she had been crying. When she was satisfied with her appearance, she opened the door and found Michael on the other side with all of his homework in his hands. “I thought I’d join you,” he said. “I mean, if you want me to.”

She opened the door wider for him and he stepped inside.

“Are you okay?” he asked her when she had closed the door.

“Yeah,” she answered just a little to quickly. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”


“Well, I just thought you might be a little upset ‘cause of what your dad said.”

He was completely right, but she couldn’t let him know that.

“And your eyes are kinda puffy.”

She found herself hiding her face in shame immediately. “Great,” she muttered.

“No, you look fine,” he told her. “I just thought that---”

“I’m fine,” she lied. “I’m full of fine-ness. In more ways that one.” She tried to joke and put on a smile, but it was all forced.

“Are you sure?” he asked again.

The more he kept going, the more she felt like she was going to cry again. “Michael,” she said, holding back her tears masterfully, “we have homework to do.”

He nodded in agreement and laid down on one side of her bed. She laid down beside him, and before she could even open her book, she was speaking again, and this time she was speaking the truth.

“I get sad sometimes,” she told him. “Don’t tell anyone.”

He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to. Somehow, she knew she could trust him.




TBC...
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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